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spacer.gif   The Readers' Choice Awards
Posted by : cj on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 01:00 AM
Poetry:  Click On The Author's Name .

Click Here to review the original rules of this contest.


Honorable Mention

This Room

I fit you
My head in the curve of your neck
My thigh across your hips
I know you
My lips on your collarbone
My hair stirred by your breath

In this room
You color me warm bourbon on the throat
The room in which I love you
I rise from your skin like salt in the sun
We lay locked
Pass the day like sunlight through yellow leaves

Outside, somewhere,
A rake scrapes the sidewalk
In this room, here,
I fell no sickness your hands cannot heal

by Cherie Caswell Dost


This Room Not Called 'Alone'

This room holds us sometimes the plural pronoun makes me gasp. This room contains a litany of memory: our first inner touch, fight, thrown object, reconciliation, tears in happiness and passion, pettiness and pain. This room smells like chicken and mushroom soup served up by the sea after good sex. This room has one accent wall painted the same blue as hope but the paint chip calls it 'Spartan 246.' This room has a framed image of us smiling with our clothes on. This room sings me to sleep, absent-mindedly off-key, sea chanteys and the national anthems of as-of-yet-undiscovered lands. This room is furnished with funky 50s antiques, deco lamps, the severely serene slices of color called Rothko prints, and pieces of original art by our witty, urbane, talented, creative friends. This room does not have a television. This room abjures the glib, superficial, and ironic. This room is pumped full of a truth serum vapor: a human cannot tell a lie here. This room is a machine for living. This room breathes moonlight on alternate Tuesdays. This room knows that my heart secretly broke with arias of delight when presented with a blushing bundle of the palest pink roses. This room witnessed you bringing me Italian lingerie only to remove it with your teeth. This room has tasted our tedium like a green-stained Band-Aid(TM). This room can be a crock-pot of banal discontent. This room's windows look out on a brick wall, or a green field, or a variegated skyline of similar yellow buildings. This room occasionally has a floor with islands of unwashed laundry. This room is where I drink tea, and you, coffee, while we look at the paper on Sunday mornings. This room is tainted with a sour sweat smell when you're sick. This room bleeds optimistically and congeals with glee. This room means the comfort and suffocation of familiarity. This room cannot translate irregularity. This room named me. This room displays fleeting murals of the dancing shadows cast by invisible objects. This room is in a walk-up, a high-rise, a little stucco home with geranium window boxes, a hotel, the laboratory of a research facility. This room is one with a door that needs no lock, but we both hold keys.

by Erika Mikkalo



I know you,
in crazy twilight sunset sounds.
Sueaking, swinging
Sing song stacatto
is musical.
The ground gives
When I push down,
it is a large spongy movie set.
Small things skitter outside
my vision all around
while it is
The scent of salt and rotten things
finely covers live green pushing
up cracks in the blistered flats.
I am alone
looking closer at the small shoots,
to ease being.
The keys are left in the ignition.
Strong things persist out
In the smoothed flat poison waste soil
Popping lights hover just below my eyes.
Sunset locked in clouds gone renegade
with the rest,
fighting a tenuous wire stretching live death,
only a few miles
from a cemetery
where earth holds stern mortalities
first most poignant
breath on my bare chilly neck.
And those are two geese
Honking whores hooting vitality
in the winds arms,
long necked laughers,
parading between sweetly
surreal slip sounds
In layered echo
High tweeters
shot out by some
eyeless mouthless
creature that even
the dead do not feed
drawing curtains
over a backdrop
of certain glimmery night.

by Nathan Martin


Seasons: My Shadow...

i cast a cold gray shadow
stepping crisply in the snow
i stretch a soft pale specter
as it dances the grassy knoll
i etch a bold creation
as bare feet melt in sand
i tuck my friend besides me
crackling leaves....underfoot

by Matthew William Elsey


An Unacknowledgeable Meeting

Tuesday afternoon on the avenue
and the bums gather on the sidewalk
staking out their spots for an hour of rest
before hunger, thirst, or the DTs jerk their bodies
to motion. A Woman walks down the street
health wealth and power shining in an aura around her
causing people to turn and watch as she passes by.
Even the bums stare; one in particular
snaps out of his despondency long enough
to longingly gaze at her. She senses someone staring
so she turns and looks at the line of bums sitting on the sidewalk.

She and that bum once knew each other, sort of
they met over the internet a couple years ago,
shared a few flirtatious moments. He fell for her,
she didn't; and she soon found herself fighting off
the unwanted attentions of an increasingly desperate suitor.
He eventually learned, but by then
he was without a job, a place, a friend or a way home;
soon he joined the disorganized army of the homeless
wandering the streets.

She only sees a sea of unrecognizable faces looking in her direction
so she turns back around and continues down the street,
the homecoming heroine with a new book to promote
and a new love to show her old stomping grounds to.
Meanwhile a tear meanders down the grime and scars
and five-week growth of beard that covers the bum's face.
As the tear dissolves into the mess the despondency returns;
again he loses track of the world passing him by.

by Don Hargraves


Suicide Alley

Greetings, and welcome to Suicide Alley.
Normally I wouldn't give you a second glance
but you look lost. If so, I can help.

It's a dark place, as I'm sure you've noticed.
Grays and blacks are the main shades here.
with the occasional dark blue or indigo
adding in a stray bit of color.
There's other colors around if you know where to look,
but they're often too desperately bright for this place.
Indeed, many find this constant gloom welcoming;
stand outside during a moment when the sun comes out
and watch everyone clear out within seconds.

A few of us live here, we see millions walk through every year.
They mostly come in two types: tourists and visitors.
Tourists come in groups, hold their heads high
and their eyes gleam with plans of escape;
the visitors come alone, hide their faces,
display their sorrows and look for a corner to hide in.
There are a few lost souls who find themselves here;
They tend to have puzzled looks and ask halting questions.

The lost souls are the honest ones, if you ask me
back when I tried to help everyone I found out
the tourists were banking on finding the escape
that would give them their "happily ever after;"
and the visitors had convinced themselves
death was the ONLY way out of their world.
Either way, they KNEW "their lives would get better"
and I couldn't fit the truth into their heads.
Now I just try to help those who look lost
and leave the visitors and tourists to the others.

Need a place to rest? My apartment is nearby.
I have a room set aside for guests, and the lights are always on.
I've seen this darkness kill vital, lively people
and light, I've learned, is the best antidote.

by Don Hargraves



When I think back about my father,
the shadowy image in my mind's eye
is always clouded and contorted,

His platinum hair and mustache
with a persona of an archangel,
here to guide me to conservatism,
beyond this early plane.

He frightened me with his
Edwardian morals
moreover, I deplored his ideologies
and who he was,
and yet,
I saw him as a demigod
to be emulated.

I tried many times to be the man
he wanted me to be...
attempting to walk in his oversized shoes.
Only I couldn't knowing that
somehow, I would loose myself.

At an early age I gravitated towards
the path less trodden.

He, being genteel yet brave,
egocentric and verbose,
a traditionalist and conformist,
walked the path of the sages.

He taught me the rudiments of his trade
with an accent of a language past.
A pontificating scholar of the academy.

And expecting me to be the same.
The only problem was me.

My mind had wings and soared
to imaginable heights,
to horizons, he had never dared dream.

This was the twentieth century,
the world and "I"
were in a metamorphosis of change.
Why, I was the world at that time!

I was forever inquisitive
and strove in arduous attempts,
sometimes foolhardy,
to avoid the conformal societal conventions
of his preachings.

Which only displeased and
drove him to despair.

My incandescent wit
to outsmart my father
would invariably end
in vicissitudes of his wrath.

Minor arguments would become
tantamount warfare,
he usually the victor.

As I recap on the episodes
of my early years,
I can see my ideologies coalesces
with his.

I believe,
a part of my soul,
that of the revolutionist, is lost,
buried somewhere in my psyche,
to be retrieved later.

For I feel,
that I am now
very similar to my father.

A centurion fighting for conservatism;
with relic ideologies of the past.

by Diana L. Salimi



Remorse so taunted at my soul
with unpalatable bitter thoughts
bleak and cold was that day in December
as I mourned at my father's grave.

An impingement that would carry
me through the days to come.

The sky was overcast with clouds
of threatening rain or snow.
The gusty winds played upon my hair,
loosening strands from beneath their pins.

The winds blew and pitched at
the mulched leaves and twigs,
twirling them around in circlets
on the damp and frozen earth.

Hat and gloves were necessary
as the chill enshrouded my being
and to this very day,
remains in my memory bank,
every time
I look back at my father's grave.

My gloved fingers,
boots covering aching toes,.
my barren nose felt the sting
and the burning of that December's frost.

My fingers were as stiff as the twigs
that circled beneath my feet.

At any mere touch,
I felt they would abruptly snap and break,
falling in a motion slow
to the frozen earth
and then shatter like glass
into a thousand pieces.

My emotions were a tumultuous mix
of pure jeopardy,
exhausting every fiber of my being
Moreover, my reasoning thought.

Feeling quite sorry for myself
and so alone,
I looked up into the gray opaque sky
as the new hexagonal flakes fell onto my face,
mixing with the burning tears
that rolled down my cheeks
and I knew I wanted to die.

The beautiful flakes appeared
to freeze upon my lashes,
which I felt was quite satisfying
moreover, quite appropriate.

I looked down at my father's grave,
I looked back up
to the gray snow encumbered sky
I died at that very moment,
I died alongside of my father
In his grave.

To this very day,
I am still dead,
in that freezing snow
with the beautiful hexagonal flakes
drifting down into my eyes and face
feeling alone,
so alone, and dead.

by Diana L. Salimi



My half filled cup poured over
with societal mediocre, pathetic
and tainted concepts,
over and over the rim.

I put my lips to the cup
in everyday ritual,
and I drank and drank again,
until I was full, so full
that my belly ached
with it's bile of contemptuous
and furtive lies.

The lies my mother told me
The lies of the catechism
The lies of the clergy
The lies of our great leaders
The lies of the church where
The priest pontificates about
the hereafter,
the heavenly abode of the righteous.

If you are a good boy or girl
you will go to heaven.
If not to hell,
to hell and back
moreover, back again to this earthly hell.

To the grandiose scheme of
universal laws and dogmas,
where the grandiloquent mind
will continue to drink
from it's convoluted cup.

by Diana L. Salimi


Rock A Bye Baby

I spoonfed it to you
during the nine months you rested
heavy in my womb snorted,
swallowed, smoked even injected it.

Forget vitamins with folic acid,
decaf coffee, virgin Bloody Marys
I don't intend to shelter you.

To make it here, you've gotta be big.
Streets will know your name,
tough little girl of mine.

A rape prodigy born from violence
you'll freebase your way
through life. When you arrive little one,
screaming with shakes and jitters,
suckle mama's breast;
she will not disappoint.

Rock, rock, rockabye baby
a straight line to the vein,
you'll feel better soon.

by Kathy Kubik


Android Blue

I remember the suit you wore,
android blue to match your lava boots.
Without it, your blood would boil.

My hand leaves a green-orange imprint
on your domed cheek.
Heat dissipates from you,
draws me near, creates a sphere
I want to curl into, forever a fetus.

I'm forced into the cockpit,
bowl of the craft.
A canopy lowers;
I become part of the machine.

Your hand taps the window,
muscles stretch against blue vinyl,
piano strings play a concerto
on your strong arm.

Moisture leaks down your face,
your first tear.
Airborne it turns solid, crusting one eye shut,
resembling an extinct albino dinosaur.

I place my own hand
against yours, marvel
at my pink flesh, five fingers
to your three neon claws.

Goodbye is soundless,
a universal bleating.

Air ignites fuel,
I fly where only beings called humans reside.
Weightless, my lead heart hammers,
beats for the first time without you.

Holes are left,
vast craters that will curve, ease
with time.

I near my destination.
Light crashes on the craft,
gets faster, blinks like static.
I land, blue and green spheres surround
me, pulsating crop circles.

From my firm stance on Earth
I look up toward Mars,
rough and red,
my mother planet
faded, a wink of a star.

Remember the night
I was born out of you.

by Kathy Kubik


Honorable Mention

The Dance

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight. Make me a child again just for tonight.
--Elizabet Chase Akers

The night we find the lump
in your breast
we watch those asian beetles
disguised as ladybugs fly to a refuge
our indian lamp shade,
a wash of purple and violet.
Tiny beads dangle
like the skirt of a loose flapper.

Bare light beckons
like a lighthouse.
The beetles twirl, enthralled
by the potent spark.

We watch, rapt
as they dive deep, deeper
as one by one, each gets too close
to the hot bulb
clink of hard body on glass,
buzz then silence.

Wings scatter like pixie dust
into the heaven
that is an 8x8 reflection
on our slate blue ceiling.

We are mesmerized by their bravery
each sees the casualties
but still dances onward,
a last dip before autumn leaves scatter.

You fall asleep,
light shines warm on your face.
I cover you with the afghan
woven by your mother many moons ago.

by Kathy Kubik


Hands of Time

Hands of time slipping away, a motionless clasp in form of prasie.
Brittle minds still abusing, trying to find life looking for amusement.
imprisoned with thought, yet feeling untaught.
A thirsty seashore pillared with rocks, to the night I flock.
Like a white winged moth pursuing the truth, drawn to the silhouette
of a blood filled moon.
Prostheticly caring my heart is tearing, an aging soul growing weary.
In space and time I have already died, in a blink of an eye my life
passed me by.
conception or death never the less, what lies between is the true test.
Tic toc tick toc keep ahead of the clock, pay no attention that we are livestock.
As it slips away day after day further and further you fall into your grave.
Things change but your still the same, why is that you may ask?
Tic toc tic toc better hurry it's moving fast, night and day it's all the
same it isn't going anywhere anyway.
Just your needs and your desires flying away higher and higher tic toc
tic toc.
Hands of time slipping away a motionless clasp in the form of praise.

by Justin Stanford


Second Skin

A little newer now,
the pounds are shedding
like the weight from the tears in my eyes;
like the weight from the heaviness in my heart,
growing a new kind of skin,
praying FIRST,
asking later,
following my first mind kind of skin,
learning to love my folds and bends and soft places kind of skin,
believing in what I can't see kind of skin,
trusting that if I fail I can try again kind of skin,
walking into restaurants
and once familiar places
head up, shoulders back,
where we used to go to just be
and be together kind of skin,
ignoring little whispers,
mutual friends now your friends now former friends,
leaving the reactions in the past,
letting my actions speak for me kind of skin,
realizing that my blackness is a gift,
on my way to wholeness,
made beautiful from the image He created me in,
on my way to shedding the layers,
the baggage,
the garbage,
the false senses of security, materiality,
in others who couldn't give me what I needed most kind of skin,
understanding that life is a blueprint,
with parts,
and angles,
and formulas
leading to other roads,
some chosen,
some taken,
some given kind of skin.
This second skin,
no longer black from hurt,
no longer red from anger,
no longer blue from tears,
is what helped me write;
is what helped me grow.

watch my smoke...

by Gene' Stephens Connolly


Light Longing

Exquisite desire at our lips,
soaked with longing and sangria.
Hints of heat and sunrise;
warm hands know where to go.

Soaked with longing and sangria,
light flames our forms.
warm hand know where to go,
explore with fervent fingers.

Light flames our forms,
glowing, skin to skin,
explores with fervent fingers
an ache that's never needed names.

Glowing, skin to skin,
lips shine in shadow;
an ache that's never needed names
for sun-warmed fingers in the morning.

Lips shine in shadow:
strong, skilled hands trace designs
with sun-warmed fingers in the morning;
a laugh, straight from the groin.

Strong, skilled hands trace designs
with hints of heat and sunrise;
a laugh, straight from the groin;
exquisite desire at our lips.

by Whitney Scott



Chicago eats light, sucks it in like a black
hole, hoards it like a radium dial planning
to stay up all night. But light--like grass
or flesh devoured--decays. We always
need more, but unlike broad green leaves

that take their sun straight, we cannot
look full on light or God and live, we need
tempering angels, moons--or cities--
lest we go blind and starve. Yet in daylight,
there's enough to squander. Towers toy

with it. Canyon walls, fluid as melting sand,
play lunch hour catch, pitch a gleam
underhand to brush your hair, like a secret
stare in a jammed subway car that leaves you
blushing. Blessed. This city's glass slabs

square off, gather broken suns in their thousand
panes to flatter in light without shadow
some face in the dark valley, focus to a single
plume to snag the corner of your eye,
the glint of a white bird alight upon your sleeve.

by Larry Janowski


The Loss

for D.D.

I dream of dark chambers
Rooms I never use
Heavy varnished doors
with finite thud & click
A long forgotten houseguest prone across lavatory tile
--Panic of blood splashed across my cool porcelain dreams
trickles to the sewer now
an underground bloodsystem

Wrinkled red kidneybean of an unborn thought
lost in the chenille folds
leaves her impression
long after removed I dream

still dream
translucent fish spawning in underground streams
in the dark until
their eyes disappear
in rooms half forgotten
I call out in the night

Where is my dark child hiding
Where is my ghost-pale child
In the shadows behind your eyes?
Behind yours?
Behind some still-too-vivid memory?

I'm leaning out a 3rd story window
Calling from an abandoned building
oh whoever you are
Come home for dinner

Come home

by Kim Berez


First Place Winner


He used to call her
His scent like the exhaust fan
The kids had to walk past at the neighborhood bar
To fetch him home

That stale smell stifling their childish blue & pink bedroom
Mama had moved into months ago
In order to stop him though it didn't

he spewed freely
for the world to hear
back when a man couldn't
rape his wife in court
'Cuz she was His to do with as he pleased

As she pleaded
as she sobbed
as she screamed in pain and frustration
- except this night
this one random night

She didn't beg sob or yell
for the kids to run next door
and call the cops

Held down
Both her tiny wrists pinned
under one of his hard square hands

While his free hand ripped her nightgown
She . . . spit

She just spit
No one breathing
in his face

and she spit again

He whacked her harderBITCH

she felt nothing /not the red welts rising
She felt nothing but her new power

Spit / Slap
Blood surfacing

The daughter holding her breath
in her own damp pillow
felt the power
Overflow into her

& It was something
silently Silently
she slipped from under cover

In the drawer with his union badge
he kept a fishing knife

by Kim Berez


What My Dad's Like

On the way to the Laundromat Mama stopped & pointed across the street
"See that man getting on the bus? The one with the cap on?
I think that guy's your dad."

by Kim Berez


The Trees Are Burning

Forest, lush, thriving with life,
Yet dry, like an alcoholic who yearns for one more drink.
No rain or dew appears to satisfy it's thirst,
Clouds, without rain, charged with a deadly force.

The sudden strike, and one lazy tendril of smoke
Wafts in a steady updraft of wind,
Fanning the smoke into a bright orange tongue,
Like looking into the mouth of the devil.

Unawares, the forest creatures go about
Their business of survival.
That is, until the steadily advancing flame
Becomes too much for any to ignore, including humans.

We try to turn it, quench it, conquer it,
But fail for days and weeks,
Until it has destroyed homes,
Both human and animal.

My friend's daughter looks at these pictures,
So far removed from her reality
Of concrete forests and gravelly ground.
Looks and asks, "The trees are burning. Why?
Did they burn down here too?"

Oh, little child, how right you are.
Here, in this concrete forest, the trees are burning,
Behind closed doors and minds.
Destroying themselves, failing to keep the flames in check.

Here, the trees are burning.

by Lawrence Underwood

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