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WINNERPOEM OF THE MONTHCONTESTRoom 19

They still slice brains at the Moscow Brain Institute
with the same hand-cranked deli meat-slicer,
which carves genius into thin memories
and past sins that could flutter to the floor
from careless fingers. Brains marinate
in formaldehyde inside flowered borscht pots
while history’s great minds rest in glass cases.

31,000 slivers of flesh mounted on glass,
stored behind three reinforced, alarmed
doors. 14 green leather-bound volumes,
embossed with five letters: L-E-N-I-N.
What used to be a state secret is no longer.

These books transcribe the territorial map
of Lenin’s brain: 31,000 snapshots
of each decision, good or bad, each strength,
each weakness exposed slice by slice.

Greatness comes with more of everything.
Most brains there get only two or three
thousand chances to prove themselves.
Rocket scientists, writers, secret police,
Lenin’s widow, and Stalin—the architecture
of their brain cells disassembled.

Poor Mayakovsky, your suicide celebrated
by a white labcoat who chopped through
your apartment walls with an ax, raced
away with your unusually large brain
in a washbasin straight to the slicer.

Lenin’s widow answered questions
about her husband’s personality,
to shine more light on science.
But the Bolsheviks changed her answers
to ensure greatness. His tenor voice
became baritone—no lovesick, romantic
lead role for him. Shaky vision
in one eye vanished.

In the end nothing could be discovered
by examining under a microscope
what makes a genius—or a dictator.

-Meg Freer

——

Meg Freer is the winner of the NinaAlvarez.net Poem of the Month Contest, February 2018.

Meg Freer grew up in Montana and now lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario, where she teaches piano and enjoys running and photography. She began writing poetry recently, and her photos and poems have won awards both in North America and overseas and have been published in chapbook anthologies and in both print and online journals. In 2017 she won a fellowship and attended the Summer Literary Seminars in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.

——

Many thanks to all those who submitted your beautiful and transcendent work.

Submissions to the Poem of the Month Contest are always open.

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WINNERPOEM OF THE MONTHCONTESTPrince Christian Sound, Greenland

 

We shelter from freezing winds
in sun-warmed nooks on the deck.
Indoors, the crew ladles
hot Dutch pea soup
hunked with ham into bowls.

To starboard, mountains march past
like a row of stout children
with waterfalls pinned to their jackets.
Their mountain neighbors, faces blackened
with gneiss, torsos girdled in mist,
wear witches’ hats on their peaks
as if hoping to frighten the children away.

As we watch icebergs calve
I think of the cow made of ice
in Norse myth who nourished
primeval Ymir with her milk.
The calves birthed today
are blue and translucent
as premature babies
who cannot survive.

The ice sheet, whitened
with bubbles of air in July,
deepens to aquamarine
in December. Eons ago,
glacial behemoths sheered
mountainsides slick; now,
as the icecap retreats,
its dirty fingers reach out,
grope the slopes, seeking water—
a panorama reflected, reversed,
in the blue-green glass mirror
of Prince Christian Sound.

Where one glacial digit
Dips down to the strait,
the ship pauses and rotates.
Each revolution’s a vista unveiled.
Only the clicking of cameras,
the chunk-chunk of idling engines.
Breathless and stilled,
we are seized by what Jack London
called the “white silence:”
time suspended in a caesura
of one billion years.

-Sharon Whitehill

——

Sharon Whitehill is the co-winner of the NinaAlvarez.net + Cosmographia Books Poem of the Month Contest, January 2018. The other winner is Ari Gold’s poem “Fire Dancer.” The two created a lovely juxtaposition that put in me the mind of fire and ice, and that is why I broke tradition and chose two winners.

Happy New Year!

——

Sharon Whitehill is a retired professor of English from Michigan, now living in Florida and attempting poetry for the first time.

——

Many thanks to all those who submitted your beautiful and transcendent work.

You can still submit to the Poem of the Month Contest (ongoing), and to the Cosmographia Chapbook Contest (until Jan. 12, 2017).

WINNERPOEM OF THE MONTHCONTESTFire Dancer


My brother danced at last with explosions and fire—
Not a helicopter, just mushrooms at Burning Man.
I had Minha with me,
accidental lover,
former ballerina with a titanium knee,
a crescent scar on golden skin.
My brother had us,
temporary parents
so he shouted in triumph at the beauty of a bespectacled blonde dancer incoming from the skyscraper of flames.
My twin let loose at last.

Got burning ash in my fucking eye!
he screamed.
So much for bliss.
The carnival was now Hieronymus but I was not going
to allow
my hypochondriac brother
to chain himself to the wheel in the sky.

My gold and silver velvet robe flapped open,
sharp sand pierced my chest.
I was a king.
He was jealous when I bought my costume on Haight
As though I had stolen it from him.
A clump of soot, glowing orange,
somersaulted jerkily across the desert floor
A lizard on bad acid.
Minha placed her hand on the back of mine.
We should find a medic.

Had I really witnessed my twin at age six,
friendless in the playground riot,
friendless save for the pale-green puffy jacket
he clutched in his lap?
Or was it our mother who saw him there,
and told us later
how she’d burst into tears at the sight of one of her little boys
who didn’t know how to play?

Maybe it’s hard to lead another person to joy,

but here in the windy inferno,
I’d be damned if I didn’t try.
He’ll be fine, I said.
The crust of sand crackled under my boots.
My left palm gripped a ribbon that Minha gave me
a hundred minutes before.
Her hair whipped around her big soppy deer’s eyes.
Ethan moaned, on his knees,
convinced by the inferiority of his boring black robe
he was doomed to go blind.

Now inside the medic’s tent,
my brother being tended
I wait with Minha on folding chairs.
Another young lady punches herself in the forehead.
Neither the tattooed doctors scurrying around, stethoscopes flapping,
nor I, hairy knee trembling with fear for my brother’s eye,
know what to do about the weeping stranger.
“But
I
am
I was
a dancer,” the young lady cries
to the canvas ceiling
fluorescents revealing her despair
for all to see.
Party time over.
A tiny ballet shoe on the hard dirt beneath her folding chair.
A bone pressing out of her ankle skin.
Her joy is embalmed on her wrists–
a hundred multicolored bangles rise and fall with her tears.

Minha crosses the floor, kneels behind the girl.
Her hand on the stranger’s shoulder.
She whispers into her ear.
The girl softens
the cacophony of competing sound systems retreats
the plastic-and-tin folding chair holds me eighteen inches above the packed dirt.

A single sparkle that had once graced a cheek
calls to me from the floor
to tear my eyes from my queen’s caress of this stranger,
because as she whispers to the girl,

sweet milk pours over the other patients
in their soon-to-be-obsolete-again Victorian costumes
straight towards me.
Look away.
She is an accidental lover,
a girl from the midwest who I’m not supposed to fall in love with tonight.
So I tear my eyes from her,
to the tent door flapping open,
to the chaos of the night and a thousand other parties,
to the road like a long tall princess waiting to be fucked,
to a thousand restless flappings of my mother’s wings.

-Ari Gold

——

Ari Gold is the co-winner of the NinaAlvarez.net + Cosmographia Books Poem of the Month Contest, January 2018. The other winner is Sharon Whitehall’s poem “Prince Christian Sound, Greenland.” The two created a lovely juxtaposition that put in me the mind of fire and ice, and that is why I broke tradition and chose two winners.

Happy New Year!

——

Website: AriGoldFilms.com
Instagram: Instagram.com/AriGold
Twitter: Twitter.com/AriGold
Facebook: Facebook.com/AriGoldFilms

Ari Gold is a student-Oscar-winning writer and film director whose films are linked by musical and environmental themes. As a writer, his work has been serialized in the Serbian newspaper Danas, and he is completing both an adult novel and a middle-grade novel this year.

His new feature film, “The Song of Sway Lake,” has been selected as Opening Night Film at four films this month; he also directed the cult comedy “Adventures of Power” (“One of the funniest films in recent years” – NY Magazine), dozens of award-winning shorts and videos that have been presented everywhere from Sundance to Karlovy-Vary, and the short film “Helicopter” about his mother’s death in the helicopter crash that killed rock music promoter Bill Graham.

His most unusual distinctions include winning High Times Magazine’s “Stoner of the Year” award, and being enshrined in the Guinness Book of World Records for commanding the largest air-drum ensemble on earth. His next major project, currently in development, is a game-changing action-adventure fiction TV series about ecology, war, shamanism, and the liberation of the human spirit.

——

Many thanks to all those who submitted your beautiful and transcendent work.

You can still submit to the Poem of the Month Contest (ongoing), and to the Cosmographia Chapbook Contest (until Jan. 12, 2017).

For the 10th year in a row, here are the TOP 10 POEMS of the year at NinaAlvarez.net.

Thanks for visiting! Happy New Year.

1. Ithaca

2. I Walked a Mile with Pleasure

3. Ithaca (Video)

4. On The Road Home

5. The Lost Son

6. The Unicorn

7. The Serpent

8. Deathless Aphrodite of the Spangled Mind

9. Invitation to the Voyage

10. The Insect God

 

WINNTERPOEM OF THE MONTHCONTESTConversation

Maybe an anchor, this day
of first goodbyes,
what might become
safe from the drift
in tangled grass, tonight
on its knees, bowing
its way toward home.
Now the rain falls fast
on the the lake, a flash
in the gauzy light. Memory
of first meeting gutters
from the roof, rapid, the sound
of stones, a brook from the eaves
to sustain a break from sunlight.

* * *

Whatever I am
is written in the diastole,
what opens when
the heart can hold it,

* * *

when the stars burn
naked on the grass . . .

* * *

the moon reflects
a borrowed light,

* * *

the moon quiet in the leaves,
touching the face
of a stranger trembling
with recognition.

* * *

Purple iris cast among the rocks
refusing to bloom at home,
unlike these weeds in bent grass,
daisies in their poses.

* * *

If all you become is a pleasant sound,
tune to the music of falling, sing
like rain until the seeds wake up
and take off their coats.

* * *

White-washed walls, this blue,
blue day, I walk the labyrinths
in Arcos, Spain, my plaid shirt glowing
yellow, alone in the pueblo.

* * *

What you and I might be
in some other world, a world
where I could reach you
right before you disappear
forever, this blue day.
In the pueblo, following light
as if to discover a new way
to exist in this world,
I hurry on to see what’s next,
what might appear with time
running out. These walls
have stood 1,000 years.
They’ve seen this kind
of ache before. They know
how it ends.

* * *

This morning the smoke tree
caught fire, its blossoms
setting off the starling’s alarm.

* * *

Seeds fall and open,
they rise to find their shape.

One seed, the shelter
we need to wonder.

What belongs here, in this garden,
what takes root in any weather,
this love, the truth.

Can you feel the ache of a rose
that’s closing too soon,
wary of thorns?

For now I have some way
to stretch for a heaven
I can’t yet conceive.

* * *

When we walk in the pines
or in the water, golden light,
loons at dusk,
words I need to hear
greet me with silence.
What scavenges the gladiolas?
See what’s buried there
and stored up for winter?

When all desire withers,
water softening the edges,
letting go of wind in cattails,
the moon its waxing, the sky
never has to say one word
to sing its blue.

The dew and clouds carry on
their daily conversation with lakes
and gravity, what settles
every morning towards this next
ending, the ripest season
when pears hang heavy on the limbs,
when last night’s embers
cool and grey like pages,
a book I finish
far too late to awaken
the imagination.

* * *

Who you’re meant to be empties
like a mirror, a basin summer mornings
when the swans glide toward the grass,
our love in the weeds, the calm birds
swimming oblivious to what we meant.
They graced the marsh with solitude
and did not skim the day for excess treasure,
did not ask for more than what they’d need.

The loss we suffer in a word
misspoken or too soon,
the questions darkened on the tongue.

When I’m stunned and dumb, alone
at the window, a cardinal
pontificates in the branches.
The round world reddens,
quails with anticipation.

* * *

Would you rebuke the wind,
the rose its thorn?

One lily blooms in the garden,
opens to a purple congregation.
The robins usher down the stalks for alms.
What do you believe
when the feeder empties
and God shines forth in hunger?

Appetite opens like the hyacinth
and that word blossoms
on the tongue and falls,
spills its blood and grows.

It loves the sound of lost,
what’s hidden in the wind,
the heron’s stillness by the reeds.

The wind takes us, always,
home, past grass higher
than our heads to shelter
this conversation.

-Charles Coté

——

Charles Coté is the winner of the NinaAlvarez.net + Cosmographia Books Poem of the Month Contest, December 2017.

Charles Coté is a clinical social worker in Rochester New York. His chapbook, Flying for the Window, was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press. A forthcoming full-length collection will be published by Tiger Bark Press. He teaches poetry at Writers & Books in Rochester, New York.

——

Many thanks to all those who submitted your beautiful and transcendent work.

You can still submit to the Poem of the Month Contest (ongoing), and to the Cosmographia Chapbook Contest (until Dec. 21, 2017).

WINNTERPOEM OF THE MONTHCONTESTEuropa

Her curly hair, now pine and oak forests,
has a rosy glow in the morning light.
And those cliffs under her eyes, weary
and like violet half-moons,
are still adorably mortal.

Mussed, her shores are livid after storms.
But always a high-born, she welcomes the men
who paint their faces blue.
Men who bump their pea-pod boats
against her sides, and wrap garlands
around her mighty oaks
while she marvels at how those trees
just yesterday were sprouts.

Later, much later, after Gaul
and Hun and Roman bang their swords,
saints will claim her. She’ll hardly care.
She was giant, so much more than a man-god,
a millennium before their Christ was born.

Red wine flowed in veins then
stronger than any blood.
And gods had horns and balls,
were apt to take a fancy to a pretty woman.

History is something she hates.
No past. No present. No future—
time just a jumble of tenses,
like the boulders,
at the foot of her alps.

But sometimes, changing back to a woman,
darkly-darkly she will go
padding through the night.

And coming to a glen, she will let her sorrow go—

give it wing, and breath, and let it find its voice
in the sharp cry and snap of a mouse
taken by an owl.

* In my re-imagining of the myth, Zeus changes Europa into the continent of Europe.

 

-John Barrale

 

John Barrale is the winner of the NinaAlvarez.net Poem of the Month Contest, November 2017.

John Barrale has been published in numerous online and print publications. Most recently, his work has appeared in Unrorean, East Meets West—American Writers Review, Icon, Narrative Northeast, Pidgeonholes, Sensations Magazine, and Molotov CocktailShakespeare’s Moths a collection of his early poems was published by White Chicken Press in 2012.

Along with five other “Gang of Five” members, he hosts a free monthly poetry reading series called “The Red Wheelbarrow” at The William Carlos Williams Center in Rutherford, New Jersey.  In 2012, he joined the volunteer staff of “The Rutherford Red Wheel Barrow” poetry anthologies as one of its two managing editors.

John is currently working hard at being retired, spending most of his time writing, reading, and hiking in the U.S. and Canadian national parks. “Dolce de fare niente” (How sweet to do nothing) is his mantra.

 

Many thanks to all those who submitted your beautiful and transcendent work.

You can still submit to the Poem of the Month Contest for future months, and to the Cosmographia Chapbook Contest.

WINNTERPOEM OF THE MONTHCONTESTTrust

 

Sometimes it is good to wait:
the pause that took years to complete
finally ends—your voice
an exclamation of amazement
at where you have landed,
what you have become.
That brief turning away
to answer the call of another,
and forgetting to mark the trail,
the forest of green closing in.

And how bright the day
you recognized, at last,
the one tree that mattered—
the mighty trunk of your own body!
and climbed it to find the path back.
Picking up the pen again
as if you’d never stopped,
the heft and hue of two decades
suffusing the valley of your being,

and all the small scurrying things
finally freed, newly seen
within the round comforting day
of a different vision. Head bowed
over the acreage of your desk then,
grateful for the energy so
quietly at work in that dark—
as if, when you turned away,
one hand shook the other.

 

-Lynne Burnett

 

Lynne Burnett is the winner of the NinaAlvarez.net Poem of the Month Contest, October 2017.

Lynne Burnett lives in the Pacific Northwest. Recent publications include Blue Heron Review, IthacaLit, Mockingheart Review, New Millennium Writings, Tamsen, Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art, Best of Kindness 2017 Anthology and a Tupelo Press chapbook anthology. She is the 2016 winner of the Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize, and received special merit in Comstock Review’s 2017 Muriel Craft Bailey Prize. Her chapbook, “Irresistible” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, spring of 2018.

 

Many thanks to all those who submitted your beautiful and transcendent work.

You can still submit to the Poem of the Month Contest for future months, and to the Cosmographia Chapbook Contest.