CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM 2017 WINNING POEMS
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHOLLA DIVISION
Cholla Division First Prize Michael Harty
Man in the Workshop
He still has all the tools: the big lathe
and the small one. The table saw with whirling
teeth to rip a two-inch plank
end to end or miter-cut within one degree.
The router that can do two dozen
variations on a groove. For the fine work,
racks of chisels and rasps, planes,
sanders, a miscellany of blades;
gadgets without names, improvised
for the moment and saved just in case.
There’s that shop-smell, varnish and sawdust,
engine oil. The warm kiln along one wall,
musky stacks of weighted boards slow-drying.
Friends come by with their scavengings:
a thick branch from a pruned lilac;
mesquite roots grubbed up on someone’s ranch;
last month the whole trunk of a pecan tree
pushed over in a storm. They want him
to turn their scraps into tables
or bookcases, as in years past
when his wife still recognized him,
when his growing son helped feed hardwood
logs through the band saw, turning out
perfect planks edged in bark.
Once in a while he’ll still make them
something nice: bud vase, cutting board, shoe rack.
But mostly he studies the irregularities
in every piece, the knots and gnarls,
the history of the tree in code:
droughts and injuries it survived,
the insects, the winters, the winds.
The hidden narrative in its final chapter.
He follows the swirling grain,
tries to decipher its messages,
hesitates to violate its unity.
While the saws sit silent, he ponders
whether there is still something
this piece of wood wants to be.
Cholla Division Second Prize Maurine Haltiner
Your condor claws tease the laces
of my shoes, untie the left. Come, Andy,
I say, as you follow a trail of raw meat.
Your gait is a proud sway, a way
to test air with each step, each
thirty-pound shift of weight beneath
folds of black and white feathers, white
ruff of neck. You stretch your wings, flap
and (nearly) slap my hand with ten feet
of barb and powder down. After fifty-three
years of caged days, you walk unleashed,
free, the urge to fly unclipped. One day
you will catch a thermal burst, rise
with the flamboyant joy of a flamingo, top
evening’s fired clouds, astonish heaven
with a cry no longer strangled
by the silence of genes. After you navigate
the upside of air, circle back where I wait
for a sky burial. Hook and deflesh me
with the devotion of your ample beak. Devour
kidney, liver, heart—all the soft magic
of my being. Take us to the rest of sky.
Cholla Division Third Prize N. Colwell Snell
I learned by heart
fine careless rapture
note after radiant note
sung to perfection.
That is all I did today.
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHAQUETA DIVISION
Chaqueta Division First Prize Barbara J. Funke
Marking the Trail for April Fools in Zion
Dark's First of April elves were hard at work
to stack the graduated river rock
in sight of where the Virgin sheds its shadows
and Narrows trail-flow
rushes from aeolian ribs of blushing Navajo sandstone.
Two hundred cairns stand tall on graveled shores
in playful witness
to the date and snowmelt's gush.
Markers in legions raise their droll salute
to those who sojourn and emerge alive.
For those who don't,
who learn the current's punch line—
misguided, baptized wildly, struck with awe—
cairns rise as monuments
that hail with hope,
lead with a gentle hand,
announce two hundred times,
See, here you go.
Your path resumes right here,
right here, right here . . . .
Chaqueta Division Second Place Angie M. Goin
The Mystique of the Mesquite
The gnarly old mesquite forks left then twists—
a bent, untamed contortionist
whose thirsting tongue
dives deep into the West Texas dirt,
first paying homage
before sucking it dry,
keeping its enemies a thorn’s distance away,
a tree whose bean
once fed and cured the ancient ones
now burns at the hands of ranchers, daughters and sons.
From white-pursed lips the night wind whistles
lyrics of a secret healing tree that streams
a golden nectar deep within its taproot marrow,
a soothing shroud of honey sweet enough
to dry a man of his love for drink.
When the music fades,
when the last bell tolls,
when only the whistling wind pervades,
place my twisted torso under the palo duro;
in-earth this tortured scaffold,
my bones punctuated with spurs,
that I may be one
with the old mesquite
to the bean’s
Chaqueta Division Third Place Markay Brown
Spring hail dashes itself against the pane.
I watch pink sandstone tint to deep magenta,
stained by nectar it hoards in cracked skin,
sensing drought follows this brief Shangri-La.
I visit the sunstone land to escape
heron skies and winter squall,
to be tutored by landscape
where saguaro sips the rain-blessed soil,
a meager sacrament
held deep inside
this prayer-like plant
with needled hide.
Dealt the lowest card:
sun-scorch and sand-burn,
blistered face like a sword,
yet it thrives under scorn,
Saguaro reaches up
anxious to live, forgive,
return thanks for the bitter cup.
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHAPAREJOS DIVISION
Chaparejos Division First Prize Maurine Haltiner
In Concert Atom-bound
Sounds scamper through our blood and bones to find
the soul. Their journey happens only by
consent of genome codes that have to mind
each double helix melody, rely
upon a four-tone scale. White notes rejoice
in complex counterpoint, flesh waits until
excited atoms play the tune. No voice,
not even God’s can interfere. Be still
and feel the songs of DNA, the scores
of Mahler symphonies that scratch the heart
of human grief and bliss. Delight restores
lost faith. Such holy states have counterparts
in cosmic resonance. With each reprise—
marvel at the rush to harmonize.
Chaparejos Division Second Prize Maurine Haltiner
Painted Blue and Black
—by Lee Deffebach, 1985
The universe in one old can? Some rock
and ice from asteroids or gallon weight
of galaxy might fit. But still, the shock
of our beginning, crushed, abbreviates
the endless stock of stars, the curling arms
of nebulae, Orion’s Betelgeuse.
I hear each hammer stroke as Lee alarms
the rusted can until it’s smashed, reduced
to fit her artist’s bent. She coaxes shades
of violet about each dip and spike.
She overlays with silver blue, adds sprays
of black hole mist, her burst of joy. It’s like
a battered plate until I hang it high
to hear Lee’s cosmos sing, electrify.
Chaparejos Division Third Prize Beth Staas
Parody of Sonnet 29
I’m not the Bard, despite my heartfelt tries,
submitting poems by contest deadline dates,
my fingers numbed and rubbing burning eyes,
my brain aware I’m not among the Greats.
Yet there resides the ever-present hope
that this time I will find myself possessed
of recognition for my gentle trope
to certify at last my anxious quest.
So though each time the judges, analyzing
my attempts, demur and relegate
it into “needs a little more revising,”
I will soldier on then bravely state
that pleasure from a well turned phrase still brings
a wealth beyond a cabinet filled with things.
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHIMERA DIVISION
Chimera Division First Prize N. Colwell Snell
Bursting the Bubble
Okay. Cinderella married the Prince,
(why doesn’t he have a name?).
She’s worn to a frazzle ever since
that fateful night at the Ball. It came
and went like an Air Force jet.
Now she’s cleaning and scrubbing, no laughter—
so much for riding into the sunset,
for happily ever after.
Whom do these fairy tales think they can fool?
She’s exhausted just getting her kids off to school.
And the slipper? She converted it into a house.
How she did it, we haven’t a clue.
The Prince ran off with some tart (the louse!).
Now she’s an old woman who lives in a shoe.
Once again, she’s bound for fame and glory.
But that’s another story.
Chimera Division Second Place Markay Brown
If I Could Only See One Color
let it be pink, sky—like flamingoes
showing off, balancing on one leg, hopping
from one cherry blossom cloud to another,
mountains—fuchsia in the dusk
as the sun sinks.
Pink Floyd keeps us Comfortably Numb
until cymbals crash and a cerise-suited symphony
and chorus sing Ode to Joy.
A pink-inked panther bumbles across
the silver screen and we scream with laughter.
Ruby pomegranates splash on the tongue,
raspberry tarts and salmon on the plate.
The scent of rhubarb pie bubbles from the oven.
Silken as petunia petals, rough and intricate
as a queen conch, tingling as champagne,
mushy as overripe watermelon
or an antique valentine,
pink is never a bore.
scrub of pink eraser hides in memory’s files,
rouge of a back-handed slap, rim of rivered eyes.
The sting of sun-burned shoulders peels,
reveals resilience deeper than skin.
Soft coral walls comfort the mentally infirm.
Who doesn’t need rose-colored glasses
to see us to a better place?
Chimera Division Third Place Barbara Blanks
There’s No Taste like Home
It’s all the Cookie Monster’s fault.
That fuzzy furry connoisseur
of mounded blobs of dough, dropped
on metal sheets and baked
to rounded medals of perfection,
insisted on a personal inspection
of those crisp and chewy
heavenly confections. His exalted powers
of detection discerned faux product
made from boxed or frozen mixtures—
no batch of cookies mixed
from artful sources could ever fool
or sate that cookie morsel master taster.
I reckon that he brainwashed me
since I was old enough to toddle.
I watched that bright blue, bug-eyed puppet
gobble cookies, hot or cool. The sight
and scent would make him drool,
would beckon him—just as it does me now
All my diets wrecked because
I hear the “makings” mutter—from the butter
in the icebox to the flour in the pantry—
Mix me, bake me, chomp me down!
They snicker as they yank my strings
and like a marionette I submit.
Now I squash myself into clothes
that used to fit—and all because
I was exposed when I was just a moppet
to an uncouth, greedy, gastronomic,