2016 Top Three Winners

If I Were Simple 

     From fairest creatures we desire increase.

If I were simple, I’d regard the world
through the kaleidoscope of compound eye.
I’d be unobtrusive as a fly.
If you sailed by, with all your flags unfurled,
trailing hyacinths, a hummingbird your herald,
then beauty, rarely seen, would multiply
and all its dangers be diffused thereby,
its impact single-shot, not double-barreled.
But I’m complex, and beauty’s fraught with peril.
Since I can see no reason you would want
this Minotaur manhandling your Ming vases,
I’ll keep my distance, though my heart, grown feral
from tugging at its chain, the very instant
that I doze, would gladly slip its traces.

John Richard Reed

Gualala Winter

Keep dreaming of gray deer asleep in woods
as sheets of rain claim every living thing—
tailor bees, bracelet cones, chipmunks, hawk broods
high up in nests that sway but last. Each wing,
leaf, stem of fern—soaked through, wet to the core—
endures these January storms we track,
evade behind our screens, our twice-locked doors.
Nervous, we curse old roofs, new leaks. Come back.
Mend quietly what’s torn. Listen to wind.
Confuse it with Pacific surf close by,
cars crossing flooded roads. Gray deer may find
logs hollowed out, may curl inside, stay mostly dry
under mossed bark. Or not. Our sun will rise,
night storms will end. We animals open our eyes.

Kathleen McClung
San Francisco, CA

Ragged Lady

A tower’s shadow lies exhausted on
the hot and littered street.  It does not care –
a shrunken, sightless dimness – only home
for her, a ragged lady sitting there.
A suited shadow automates the door
and gushes silkily upon the street.
Oblivious to trash and rank hot air,
it ripples murky stream across her feet.
Aimless angers have spilled within my head.
They swim among this street’s debris, like fish,
devouring any promise that I had
and leaving hungry shadows, emptiness.
I hide beneath the rubble of the past,
walled in by screams the city shadows cast.

Sandra Graff
Wallkill, NY