2019 Top Three Winners

For something settled in the room

For something settled in the room, the mind,
I have adorned the walls with what she made,
Since every hope I hide, the nightmares find,
In every lovely place, an ounce of shade.

For something decent, for my chambered chest,
I have affixed for good, a thing she said,
I’ll keep it there suspended, soft, unless
It is too much to keep it from the dead.

And if they banish morbid from the whole,
And ghosts and empty eyes that frequent there,
I’ll hang them on the line across my soul,
Like clouds and moons are hung upon the air,

As some have made for god: the world as willed,
A stay against the void, and absence filled.

James Brooks
Signal Mountain, TN

Witoka Contours

after a woodblock print by Dee Cipov

This frozen field has not come clean, not quite:
the early snow is still too thin to fill
between the curving furrows' rise and fall.
They're tool-marks on a glaze of china white
that spins and drifts to its brim of tangled willow.
Beyond, stone bluffs flare briefly, then erase
themselves, their hazy pinks fading to grays
as light dries up in the creek-bed silt below.

Within a week or two, these tillage signs,
entombed, swept smooth, will make one silent mound.
Your life, or mine, could circle such middle ground,
work-blades tracing the arc of last year’s lines,
still carving earth from earth to make it new—
while flocks of cars flash past without a clue.

Scott Lowery
Wauwatosa, WI

In the city of Stabiano centuries after Vesuvius

Before we lay in naked silence high
above the walls, we walked the streets as pure
as statues who escaped the ashened sky
of long forgotten years.  You spoke to lure
me to an ancient tongue that parted air
with chiseled sounds.  I listened as you turned
through porticoes and gardens taking care
to paint with phrases raw as jewels that burned
as bright.  Upon the roof you stood the same,
but less a Roman god in stolen night.
Your hands disrobed me, and we both became
patricians lying in the polished light
of wine and summer villas of the past
with distant dreams we knew would never last.

Catherine Moran
Little Rock, AR