CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM 2018 WINNING POEMS
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHOLLA DIVISION
Cholla Division First Prize Ryan Apple
Portrait of a Friend’s Daughter, Senior Year
A warm September night, she tests her legs
out on the trampoline. The air is humid, the grass
deep green and damp. Her springing
tells the tempo and time to all the songs of night:
the chorus of distant traffic, the buzzing of insects
burrowed in trees and the trill of the mockingbird as it stretches
its adolescent wings. But lately, she’s been soaking in
the music of the spheres, the silence
planets and stars have sung from time only God can tell—
the profound and secret harmony she hears
alone. Her sister is already sleeping, her mother
busy in the kitchen. As for her father and I in the sunroom,
we have grown deaf to its sound. The whole wide universe
is waking now around her, the starlight calling her higher;
bound by bound, she is breaking the spell of gravity.
Cholla Division Second Prize Maurine Haltiner
An Early Flock
Geese narrow down through snow
clouds discarding what is
no longer embraced. Covered
with ice, a mirrored pond with-
holds its double blessing. Broken,
spent, the geese confirm the absence of seed
from last year’s crop. Discarded husks
bait beaks, entangle feet &
necks as they grub for whatever lingers. The
day is a rattle of wind
rushing through willows, tempered
by nothing in its way. With
back feather-muffed, a
lone goose one-legs-it overnight. Shrill
barn owls cast off, piping
over barren landscape the loss of
all that was plenty.
Cholla Division Third Prize Susan Foster
One Night at the Vet’s—Late October 2008
That night I drove to the vet’s to pick up some medicine
with nothing much on my mind just trying to figure out
how to pay the bills and feed the children
how to keep the wood box full and
how to keep the winter wind from whining
through the space between the front door and the floor
how to find someone to shovel the mounds of snow
how to keep getting up in the morning
how to keep going to work.
Yet it all blended into gray a flat monotonous gray
motionless as the smoke-colored clouds
stretching across the valley letting in no light
lowering onto houses and neighborhoods fields stores
schools barns the gray woolly blur of autumn twilight.
From the car I could see into the room:
the beautiful black lab sprawled flat across the rug
curling gently into death the woman and her husband
kneeling crying quietly into his limp body
holding the soft dead paws their tears glistening
in his stiff fur black as the sodium pentobarbital
flowing like a warm river into his worn veins
the dreams of leaping and dashing through meadows
chasing rabbits prairie dogs pikas
lapping water from cool green forest lakes all gone
all fading from the tired brown eyes gone
I sob into the hard circle of the steering wheel
and then when the woman walks out into the gray
October evening I hug her feel the thin shaking of
her sad body I’m sorry, I’m so sorry—what happened
I ask of this stranger, a perfect stranger. Cancer—
it was cancer she stumbles on the words Thank you
thank you she says. Only a month ago I say
in September with the golden leaves falling and
the bright sun shining my husband died too—
it was cancer I say he gasped and choked until
he could not breathe and that was all: he was gone
this woman and I—perfect strangers—and somewhere
behind my closed eyes I see the soft pleading eyes
of the lab the tired hurting body the sigh
the gentle curl into death
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHAQUETA DIVISION
Chaqueta Division First Prize Kolette Montague
High Desert Sundown
Three ravens cross the desert light
like schooners on a tempest-teem.
Their wings are sails at such a height.
What message do these dark birds scream?
They drift among the low sunbeams,
three ravens crossing desert light
with wings reflecting twilight’s gleam.
I see a message in their flight—
these travelers whose voices write
and sooty wings transcribe the theme.
Three ravens cross the desert light
above the thin meandering stream
where ripples shimmer last-light gleam.
They’ll stay with me throughout the night—
black feathers drifting through my dreams.
Three ravens crossing desert light.
Chaqueta Division Second Place Barbara J. Funke
An Interior Designer Visits the Reservation
Bearing the weight of good taste
in fabric swatches, carpet squares, and color chips,
the SUV takes bumps and ruts in stride.
Dust like smoke signals
sends silent women to indoor retreats.
The crunch of gravel halts at an appointed gate
where yellow dogs chase wag-tailed barks to the fence.
A weathered door squeaks open,
waves a useless scarf of screening as it swings.
Dark, dark interior could swallow anyone whole,
but Dolores Two Feathers comes to the step,
right hand shading her gaze,
left holding the door for her prize.
Alone in this house, she shuffles under a naked bulb,
carries colors of earth inside and out,
now holds out a bottle of spring water,
gently declined. Blonde, pale-faced angel—
promised beauty, detail for a plain-told story—
takes a wooden chair that chews her calf and thigh.
English-art double-major, make-over missionary
judges the pensile bulb insufficient,
pledges an elegant replacement,
her commission: to rain light here, add interest.
Like a Thanksgiving pop-up book
from Dolores' dim childhood,
the designer's case unfolds
its offered feast, flavor for a stale, dry mouth.
Fair-haired angel trades texture
for texture, pattern
for pattern, color
for color, recombines, sketches an indicated wall,
outlines new furniture, suggests fresh, framed art.
Dolores Two Feathers
sinks deeper into her worn sofa cushion,
nibbles pigments with black, dispassionate eyes,
tilts her head a little, slowly shakes her head No,
then pushes to her feet, draws up tall,
murmurs Thank you, and throws wide the screen door
so a long yellow rectangle can lay
its full deep kiss on her dark, earthy floor.
Chaqueta Division Third Place Lorraine Jeffrey
She came from white triangle country’s peaks,
firs, cedars, to brown rectangles and straight-lined
plateaus, houses, schools and shops, cool
of breezeless nights held behind
stuccoed walls. She spoke Spanish-soft
English while pain washed his eyes. But
when he was gone, she longed,
once again, for melodic streets,
warm Christmases, Madonna
in her yard. Softly outlined
red-tiled roofs and walkways
illuminated in brown
bags, candles and sand. Old-town
glow never mistaken
for Manhattan or
Minneapolis. My youngest
brother called and I came
to hold her hand and wait. The
bagged candle flickered when
the ICU monitor finally
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHAPAREJOS DIVISION
Chaparejos Division First Prize Barbara J. Funke
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh . . . .
Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Sonnet XLIII"
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
were not recorded in a diary
that might fall open to unwelcome eyes.
Now rosebuds gathered near by memory
have scattered blithely, and I realize
what lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten. And what arms have lain
across my couch or shoulder in the chill,
when food and drink were plenty, laughter loud,
are nameless, faceless phantoms that no thrill
identifies. What drew me to that crowd?
I have forgotten, and . . . what arms have lain
under my head till morning; but the rain
that dews my cheek and lip with kisses, chaste,
runs trails of tears down windowpane to sill.
I dare not call those reckless days a waste,
their shapeless glow a pillow I must will
under my head till morning. But the rain
is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
against the screen door of my heart, obscure
yet welcome if they'd but step through. This night
won't quell my haunting, dull discomfiture;
forgetting, I'm forgotten, dimmed. Dim light
is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh.
Chaparejos Division Second Prize Lynda La Rocco
His Last Duchess Ferrara
Had I not bowed and bent to father’s plan
That I must marry such an evil man,
You would not find me painted on this wall
And hid behind a curtain in his hall.
Yes, I was wont to smile, be of good cheer
Those first days, even weeks, I was kept here.
Though joined against my will to one so vile—
His look, his touch, his ancient name defile
All heaven, earth—still, I could fortify
My soul with broken blossoms and would ride
The white mule fast and faster. Once I tried
To spur the beast beyond the castle gate,
To flee from him, called “husband’—how I hate
To place such word upon the brow of one
Whose plan for my demise had just begun.
My dowry, now held fast, my father’s wealth,
Both boldly plundered or drained off by stealth—
The Duke, secure in what was not his own,
While I, enslaved, imprisoned, and alone,
Was shown no mercy, left no drink, no bread.
Now he has worsted me, now I am dead,
I watch him from behind the veil; he schemes
To snare another child-wife whom he deems
Blends fortune with great trust and innocence,
And soon will fall before his virulence.
Chaparejos Division Third Prize Barbara J. Funke
Valentine for the Fitzgeralds
for F. Scott and Zelda
In love with love, with life, in love with fun—
consumables loved sure as anyone
has ever been—you each devoured your loves
with passion, not the gentleness of doves
coo-cooing on a bough. You flew through nights
and into mornings, eating up the lights
that filled the dark and dawn. No valentine
need wait for winter; each day begged "Be mine!"
You answered with a glass or clever quip,
the jazz of wit, Scott, playing on your lip
companioned by a cigarette, its smoke
so like the years you tasted to evoke
a cautionary tale: the lovely dance
is insubstantial! Steeped in rich romance,
your hearts remembered sharply how they burned
with joy, with pain of lessons dearly earned.
Your zeal for party life—though grandly plumed—
left each of you by illness all-consumed.
Heart melting, Zelda, for your grace and style,
Scott wooed you, won you, lived you wild a while
till drink and dread consumption laid him low
enough to still his pen for months. Yet, so
much gorgeous prose and diligence
in care for wife and child made recompense.
Dear inmate, as the sweet of life went sour,
poles of emotion stretched your lonely hour
without reunion. Pained heart, labored breath
could not outlast your madness. Felled by death,
lost love-struck valentines, record true love
to teach what stumbling blocks yours rose above.
Our tongues will toast your powers of love and art,
taste jazzed champagne and melt a chocolate heart.
CHAPARRAL POETRY FORUM CHIMERA DIVISION
Chimera Division First Prize Michael Erdelen
I’d love to have some petits fours,
Some cookies or some cakes.
The picnic’s just outside the door,
Outside where there are snakes.
I shall not have these sweet repasts,
No matter how they beckon,
For there are snakes out in the grass.
I’m safer here, I reckon.
I hope that Mommy saves me some.
I’ll eat them in my bed.
I hope that Mommy makes it home,
That snakes don’t kill her dead,
For snakes are nasty crawly things
That live to bite your toe.
I’d rather suffer ten bee stings
Than one snake bite, you know.
I’ll never understand why God,
When making all creation,
Made snakes to crawl instead of trod
Across this mighty nation.
So if you come across a snake,
Just beat it with a stick.
And, please, bring me a piece of cake
Or else I will be sick.
Chimera Division Second Place Sara Gipson
Talking to Walls
When friends request I lend my ear
to fill with woes and pain,
I listen, holding counsel dear
while words resemble rain.
Yet times I need to sound my cause,
my friends avoid my calls.
So just to exercise my jaws,
I often talk to walls.
Chimera Division Third Place John J. Gordon
A day sans bread is full of dread,
Can lead to tummy aches instead
Of feeling like you’re in good stead
To tread about the old homestead.
Just don’t forget to feed your head
Soon after you spring out of bed.
Try something sweet like gingerbread
Or slather rye with tasty spread.
One fact that can’t be left unsaid:
It does not weigh you down like lead.
Avoid junk food; don’t be misled.
Consume fresh bread to be well fed.
Without it you could wind up dead.