- 2017 Pushcart Nominations
- 2016 Pushcart Nominations
- 2015 Pushcart Nominations
- 2014 Pushcart Nominations
- 2013 Pushcart Nominations
- 2012 Pushcart Nominations
- 2012 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- 2011 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- 2010 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- 2010 Next Generation Indie Award, Karla K. Morton
- 2009 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- 2008 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- 2007 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- 2006 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
2017 Pushcart Nominations
Our 2017 nominations were selected from Weaving the Terrain: 100-Word Southwestern Poems, the third collection in our series, Poetry of the American Southwest.
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2016 Pushcart Nominations
Our 2016 Nominations were selected from Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems, Circumference of Light by Bruce Noll, and the 2017 Texas Poetry Calendar.
Mi esposo wanders the mesa finding solace on the rim of moonless night.
Miguel, born of conquistadors, bears secrets whispered only in the night.
Along the Rio Grande, he hears the shofar of his ancestors calling him to pray.
Fragments of psalms passed through la sangre, he recites before bed each night.
How can he wear two faces without confusion or regret? Without giving himself away?
His heart is weighed down by the santos he turns toward the wall each night.
His neshama, veiled by piety, outward devotion to Catholic rite, longs to be free.
I offer him a continent of stars and succor, as we come together to love at night.
As rezador, he must guard the sacred texts, remember the proverbs and prayers.
He will stand with the men in a hidden room as they daven on Shabbos night.
During the day, he mingles, oil and water, with the trinity: culture, politics, religion.
Bird of prey, he must watch for snakes and scorpions, relaxing vigilance only at night.
Where is the grace in the Edict of Grace? Why does blood drip from wings of tolerance?
Miguel writes our history with his boot in the sand, cries out his sorrow to the night.
Eyes toward Jerusalem, he prays for a world he believes was meant to be.
Déjame morir y ser enterrado como un judío: his last words echo through the night.
The speaker is a Conversa/Crypto-Jew named Isabel (Hebrew name Raquel) who lived in New Mexico with her family during the 1600’s. kaddish: memorial prayer; shofar: ram’s horn; la sangre: blood; neshama: soul; rezador: prayer leader; daven: pray; Shabbos: Sabbath; Déjame morir y ser enterrado como un judío: Let me die and be buried as a Jew.
The tiny lemony leaves of thyme
still hold drops of last night’s rain.
I want to strip
of their ugliness:
I want to walk through the world
with my hands stained,
with the blood of things
From the Gage Hotel
we walked a bit
to hear music
a night train
in a theatrical sweep
riling the stillness
churning brine of
elsewhere over us
pulsing at the joints
then leaving us
at its wake
as the restless
on doldrum nights
this one anyway
I forget my heart
didn’t jump on, sail
that forged ambition
over waves of desert
I startle to find it
still in my chest
He was there again
last night, the quiet footman
waiting by the bed.
In all that quiet
on the edge of dark he knew
I lay still, not dead.
I was full aware
of his indifferent patience;
neither of us spoke.
It was not my time
for him to bend and help me
slip into that yoke.
Angelina Sees Father Damián Again
Padre, I had never met
a person so far from home.
Your eyes like scurrying beetles
afraid of bigger things,
afraid your god —
that pale sun —
My tongue molded words
like hierba and fuego
but you did not tell me
words are the ghosts of real things.
Every time I spoke
white smoke poured from my mouth.
Did I blame you?
Only if you counted bodies.
The worst of the world
sank in your skin.
What could you do about that?
Keep your skin.
I grew, had children.
If a man came to me
with the ocean sloshing
between his ears
I did not stop to ask
the name of his god.
What grace I found
in the open hand.
Angelina was a Hasinai woman who assisted Spanish missionaries active in Texas during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Written accounts from the Spanish and French provide only a few tantalizing bits of information: she left her village to learn Spanish at Mission San Juan Bautista, spent time mediating and interpreting for various parties, and helped save the life of a French officer. Damián Massanet was a Franciscan priest who in 1690 helped found San Bernardino de la Caldera in the area of Angelina’s village. Some of his writing has survived in which he mentions Angelina, particularly her “bright intellect” and “striking appearance,” in addition to noting her desire to learn Spanish.
I Am Rose
This is what you’ll find if you unzip history,
music pulsing in the cage of my ribs.
In the dark pipe of his longing,
my man makes a song for me.
White notes burst in his belly
when he thinks about the full nectar of my lips.
He keeps my name in the pocket of his tongue,
calls me his yellow girl.
Anonymity doesn’t keep me safe
from the long arms of lust.
My beauty is a magnet.
He sings of diamonds and dew;
the hard light of my eyes is a hammer
drumming against hungry hands
reaching to lift the skirt of my womanhood.
Heat climbs down the ladder of morning
three rungs at a time, descends on the day
with a heavy foot; he tells me he’s leaving.
I listen to his reasons, promises of return.
My face waters with sweat, tears, knowing
I will not take him back into the folds of my love.
This quiet dusk I watch the sky float in the Rio Grande,
dream of the waves of muscles swelling
across his broad back, the camber of his mouth,
hard handsome face softening when he backs
away from me. I remember our fingers sliding
off the cliff of our grasp, the cavern of emptiness.
I shudder; the next touch will not be his.
I feel the petals of my want withering
along the pebbled-stone of distance.
“The plaintive courtship-themed 1853 lyrics of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’ fit the minstrel genre by depicting an African-American singer, who is longing to return to “a yellow girl,” a term used to describe a mulatto, or mixed-race female born of African-American and white progenitors. This iconic song of modern Texas and a popular traditional American tune, has experienced several transformations of its lyrics and periodic revivals in popularity since its appearance in the 1850s.” ~ The Handbook of the Texas Historical Association
2015 Pushcart Nominations
Our 2015 nominations were selected from the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar.
The underside of Congress Bridge where bats
hang out all day, contains a budding storm
that spirals loose at dusk, casts sonar nets
to catch a million meals in tiny form.
Bats dart through twilight air with easy swoops
to forage on thick clouds of bugs just where
lone egrets, swallows, swifts and droning troops
of dragonflies criss-cross niches. Out there,
bats don’t stay long. When feasting on the wing,
they pass right overhead, dive out of sight.
They take their catch, move on as lingering
red clouds adorn the sky then swallow light.
The bats in silence circulate through town:
soft velvet gemstones of the Violet Crown.
This lazy mountain
long and pink as a lady’s thighs
a lady lying on her side, listening
for her lover.
Trees blanket her long afternoon.
Sleep and dream, woman
whose desire time mounted
Atop you a muscled wind brandishes
to beat you around,
too tough to notice,
and anyone who tries to move you.
Mean the wind you never mind
and mute the man who climbs you.
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once a rambling Quonset hut
now lies belly up
We must have been dizzy, must have drunk
too deeply of all that space around us,
city boys moved to the country, away
from alleys and sidewalks and houses next door.
Must have tasted the same elixir
as conquering armies, resistance suddenly
vanished, restraint forgotten, opportunity everywhere.
We looked for things to ravage.
Found an outbuilding next to the waterwell,
laid siege with clods and rocks and BB guns.
Not a window survived. Doorway breached,
interior looted of its rusty machine parts,
floor crunching with glass shards
and we joyful amid the wreckage
that whole summer of transgression,
entranced by the music of smashing jars.
Our hands open, bare
branches in supplication.
Our feet, creatures
Month by month
green dreaming of seedpods,
the sagging weight of fruit.
Seed case wooden as heel stack
or plank, a habit of petals.
Seed husks clamor
over cluttered clay, recall
shells so dearly spent. We want
and wanted them; they hush
themselves, casings crack
beneath our boots. We bend
beneath branches, feel litter
stutter our fingers, see the sagging
weight lifted. We gather shells
we will break our teeth opening,
so hungry for their fruit.
Out on County Line Road
Snow comes down slow and lacy. I look up into it, open
my hands, dissolve its temporary stars on my palms.
The silence, the night’s gauzy breath. Dark boughs
of evergreens lined white at the roadside. Small freights
of snow melting through my lashes. A shift: the snow grows
urgent, whets itself against a rising wind that slants it west.
My cheeks relish the sting, grow raw. Inside my boots
my numb toes twitch. Go. The mad snow globe in my chest
whirls and bursts, spins out a little blizzard of ache and urge.
Go. Turn my back to the whitened hill and the house.
Ruin the perfect pale complexion of the fields, lay down
a trail of crumbling prints between the laden pines.
Leave everything: my rooms and the fire, the boxes of letters
and my books. Walk and walk in an alabaster trance.
Plow stride by stride until nothing is familiar. My tracks filled
level, trail erased. The broken night slashed white,
the winter moon obscured. Trudge on, scarcely cold.
Stumble past the last fallen fence and disappear.
2014 Pushcart Nominations
Our 2014 nominations were selected from the 2015 Texas Poetry Calendar and Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry.
- “adobe walls at dusk—” by Jan Benson, published June 2014 in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, Week of September 13–19
- “Adrift, the body senselessly resists” by Judy Jensen, published June 2014 in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, Week of July 26–August 1
- “After Some Time Has Passed, But Not Too Much Time” by Margaree Little, published June 2014 in Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry, pages 57–58
- “Aubade for One Still Uncertain of Being Born” by Meg Day, published June 2014 in Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry, pages 332–333
- “Like a Cotton Sheet Unfolded with a Snap” by Susan Rooke, published in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, October overview
- “The Vanishing Point” by Rebecca A. Spears, published June 2014 in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, Week of November 22–28
Adrift, the body senselessly resists
Nothing is as it was. The day fully
occupied but scarcely registered.
The alarm of a red fox
from field to fallow field. The flight of rock doves
into the oaks’ open arms. Clouds hurtle
across steel skies. To slow is to fall.
The open hymnal, open grave, open
uninscribable surface of water.
Rock and root slowly draw rain up through
grassblade and branch, leaf and rough light.
An uncle steps forward and, wordlessly,
tucks a daisy under, into the dirt.
After Some Time Has Passed, But Not Too Much Time
The cranes in Whitewater Draw would still fly out to gather corn from the fields, coming back to the water at night, only the fields wouldn’t be kept by anyone.
And the man who brought the horses to the wash in the morning, riding one, holding the reins of the other, would be like a ghost limb to them.
His weight would lead them back for a week or two until they could shake it off.
Even the thought of the memory of her would be gone, hood of her sweatshirt up, hair blowing out in the evening as you walked home.
Warm night of wanting, of not touching her, which is a kind of story—
The stories would become like the image of Apollo in the drawing the artist made with ink on vellum.
In the drawing, the struggle between the god and the python is obscured by a thousand feathers scattering.
Would the images of her scatter like that?
Light falling across her by the pools of water you’d walked to in the Catalinas, yellow leaves on the cottonwoods, blue dragonfly landing on her knee.
We could stay here, you said, half-joking, though already you’d gotten up to leave.
Smell of lavender, tattoo of a red and green dragon on her back—
And the man you both met at the side of the road near Douglas, black clothes, black backpack, who’d been walking through the desert for two days since he crossed.
He would have arrived, gotten used to a life of mundane difficulties, forgotten how he had to hide in the grass behind the fence.
It’s like make believe, you tell your friend, explaining how you’d gone back that night.
You’d left water, cans of Vienna sausages, cereal bars, lit a candle for him in the mud of the road between the farms.
No, your friend says, it’s like a carefully placed wish.
And he gets up, goes out into his living room, looking through books to find the clues he’d known when he was in the hospital.
I could see it, he says, I could see how the world was going to change:
Is it like a door now, you want to ask, with the smallest amount of light coming through the bottom?
Is it like your mother, years after she forgot her own name, then remembered it, when absence slips across her face?Margaree Little
Aubade for One Still Uncertain of Being Born
Lie still. Make their desperate hunt for your heart
beat them frenzied & let them second-guess
your muted tempo as counterfeit for their own.
Press your palm, still learning to unfurl,
to your den’s wet beams & steady yourself
against the doorjamb of your lair; it will be time
when it is time. If your mother is a horse—& I am,
I am—let her approach Troy with you still hidden
within. Let her carry you like a bouquet of splinters
in her belly of timber still hot from hatching
at the future for firewood like it was a family tree.
All your life they will surround you, will stalk & strain
to hear that ballad from your canary pipes, will tempt
your quiet cover, will kick the keg of your desire
until it is dented nameless; all your life they will try
to say you are built for something else. It begins now—
so hush, hush: be nothing, just this once.
Like a Cotton Sheet Unfolded with a Snap
The desert dust billows before sinking, lying
smooth. Sometimes the winds, hot or cold, will
lift the edges with a flap, a gritty flutter. Dust
is the fitted suit we come to wear.
The sky bores us all to death, white-chipped
cobalt blue, a coffee mug upended in a “none
for me, thanks” gesture to the great hands above
that hold the pot tilted over someone else’s land.
They say dust is made of the skin cells we shed
into the air like smoke, of meteoric bodies
sifted through the fine weave of space. In this
desiccated carcass of the West, dust is made of
mammal scat brittled in the sun, grasshopper wings
buzzed to powder, rust mined from derelict strands
of wire. From this dust our lives are formed.
When it cakes the corners of our eyes we call it sleep.
The Vanishing PointDallas Love Field, 22 November 1963, 2:45 p.m.
The jet lifts so slowly it could be a memory,
made silver in the sun, that skims the surface
of Bachman’s Lake and takes time
folding its reedy legs into itself, extending
its white shawl of wings when it feels a wind
to hold it aloft or
could be a dream: it passes like one before us,
moves beyond cambered cirrus
toward a vanishing point and wonder
why some god or chance left us to watch it
lumber so heavily, its great seal a plaster
on its side. We already
perceive what we’ve lost, don’t we,
trapped inside this eye of improbability?
It turns to revolution, to a thing unimagined
and we are at the wellhead to raise
its sealing stone, but find nothing there,
try to make meaning of it
when all there is to make sense with
are egrets rising from cattails and salt grass
while space around us fills with wind
invisible and whole, a thrust of air
bolsters us when we hold inside
much too much.
2013 Pushcart Nominations
- “Lesser Nighthawk” by Patricia Spears Bigelow — in the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar, October overview
- “Phenomenon of the Vortex” by Diane Durant — in the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar, June overview
- “Over Flat Creek Near Round Top, Texas” by Carolyn Tourney Florek — in the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar, Week of May 18–24
- “Ardor de Cuerpo” by Claudia D. Hernandez — in the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar, Week of February 23–March 1
- “Wings” by Ed Madden — in the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar, December overview
- “Near Year’s End” by Susan Rooke — in the 2014 Texas Poetry Calendar, week of December 28–January 3
Beyond the front porch a small voice rises,
trilling the same note again and again,
not fancy, yet it smooths out the wrinkles of the day
as I stand in the yard, listening
under a bright moon, a few stars
the lesser nighthawk calls out into darkness
with a voice barely stronger than a small frog’s
then far off in the valley of shadows
another, on the same low note, chirring,
back and forth they call, answer, call,
creating a swaying bridge of sound
over the dark chasm as the moon moves on.
Phenomenon of the Vortex
Compared to its size, a vortex can transport energy over considerable distances, and its power is often underestimated. I knew the feeling: I was the only girl on the baseball team for years. Before I even reached the plate, the outfield crowded in, certain I was a swing and a miss at best. Coach gave me the sign. Digging my toe deep into red dirt, I laid down the perfect bunt. The path of a coyote across the desert can be marked by a succession of small dust devils. I ran like the wind.
But I’m older now. I know that centripetal force is an inward force, that a dust devil is only a minor whirlwind, that the plural of vortex is vortexes and vortices. And that there are others: hurricanes, neutercanes, tornadoes, whirlpools, waterspouts, cyclones, mesocyclones, drain whirlpools, smoke rings, bubble rings, sunspots, sand pillars, Martian dust devils, steam devils, coal devils, fire devils, leaf devils, snow devils, landspouts, gustnadoes, mountainadoes, and eddies, just to name a few. I know that friction causes loss.
The axis of a tornado is imaginary. I swirled an olive jar full of water, dish soap, and rainbow glitter as rubbish and beheld my own phenomenon.Diane Durant
Over Flat Creek Near Round Top, Texas
While the earth breaks the soft horizon
eastward we study how to deserve
what has already been given us.
~ William Stafford, “Love in the Country”
There is something about a creek or small stream
with its slow, reflective water,
pebble- or mud-bottomed,
which holds the sky and turtle as one.
Where duckweed grows into a floating carpet,
it is impossible for us to touch the water.
The steep bank is so tangled with wild rose and fallen trees
it would be foolish to try.
It’s hot, the air still and almost silent except
for the vireo we know by its song.
I love these places, seemingly of no significance,
where the dirt road crosses over Flat Creek.
The vireo scrambles the air in its declaration of home.
The water is lazy. A turtle parts the green surface
and swims into the sky.
Ardor de Cuerpo
ahogar la mente.
se empaña con cada
La vista pellizcada
se fastidia de tanto ver,
de no ver nada.
La espina quebrantada,
desdoblada se estira
que tiemblan —
Se doblan repetiendo
el rechinante grito
del hueso ardiente.
Ardor of the Body
Tear away leaves,
drown the mind.
The sensibility blurs
twist and turn.
Compressed sight withers
from constant looking,
without seeing anything.
Split, the deteriorating
that tremble —
They fold repeating
the screeching shriek
of the ardent bone.
We looked for a body,
though there was nothing
but a brush of gray
down where the bird
slammed the pane,
its ghost traced in gray
dust, wings spread,
an angel. This was proof,
though we remembered, once,
downtown, coming across
a tiny owl at the foot
of the bank tower,
where it fell.Ed Madden
Near Year’s End
In these burnt candlewicks
of days, the dry north wind
blows the scent of cold fires.
The bundled sky lets fall
no water. Through the night
hours we huddle, listening.
Coyotes like dark surf
surge through the yard,
babbling of stars and smoke.
2012 Pushcart Nominations
- “Dante in Texas” by Stan Crawford — in the 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar, October overview
- “La Posada” by Cathy Downs — in the 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar, Week of December 22–28
- “Winter” by Monty Jones — in the 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar, January overview
- “Marlin, Texas” by Robert Wynne — in the 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar, May overview
Dante in Texas
After months of drought in Midland,
in the middle of a basin where the sea once tossed
(the sea now vanished, like everything becoming
something else), last night a spat of rain
fell against the plastic skylight in the kitchen—
a sound so long unheard, I thought it caused
by some other element—perhaps the crackle from
an unseen fire. All forms fluctuate through
other forms. Dante fled from Florence,
sentenced to burn alive, burning then in exile
with words. Last night’s rain
could have been a burning language,
summoning the denizens of Midland
through the sphere of fire to stand
under a night sky suddenly blessed
by clouds returning, tears of exile ended.
Summoning us outside to shed our clothes
and shuck our lumpish bodies, veined and
varicose from brisket, beer and barbeque,
chicken-fried steak, more beer.
Though when I ran outside to hear
and feel the pattering music of the spheres,
the night was falling silent
and the streets were already dry.
If I don the dress I will be Mary,
Great with child.
My want will be upon me;
Waddle will I a bit,
Swaying from porch to path,
My two selves denied entrance.
Holy and profane I will come to you,
Asking for succor, crying piteously as in olden days.
It is scripted that you remain indoors:
My face will hang in your porch light,
Your feet will approach the door,
You will see, through the peeping hole, my face,
And yet you will back away.
Cars will move down the street where it has rained,
Red and yellow lights reflecting;
They will go quietly like owls in evening,
Their tires invisible and silent in darkness.
My feet will touch the pavement; I will stay earthbound;
But pacing the roads, my body will become complete
Where the pains touch me here, and here:
It will be spirit knocking. I will imagine
Doors that do not close, a car slowing,
A welcoming voice that utters these syllables: Come in.
Winter’s hard, brittle branch broke as predicted.
Hunters knee-deep in snow found the fox they had expected.
The usual wren tapped at the rain barrel’s mirror.
Old choruses drummed the air up and down the streets.
Joints turned on their spits, cups brimmed and sloshed.
The candle burned to a swirl of wax like a robe heaped on the floor.
Sleepers remembered the dark drawing itself over their heads.
They mumbled a few worn words without any need for waking.
The North Star, rooftop ice, rattle and gnaw of wind,
the burrowers nosing closer, all these fell into place,
as did the blind dog barking, the fire smothered in the grate,
the kitchen faucet left to drip, blankets warmed against the stove.
The gelid sap, the unwound clock, the mute owl keeping watch,
frost attending at the windows — these held out for something new.
The stillness near morning, a nail pulling against a timber.
A horse idly munches grass
next to an abandoned parking lot
as I pass business after business
for lease. The road is crumbling
beneath me, but the Ebenezer Baptist Church
has a fresh coat of white paint.
It’s a quiet Sunday in Central Texas,
worshippers nothing but blurred images
behind stained glass. They don’t know
I’ve once again opted for tater tots
instead of God. I like to think
the fabled curative mineral waters
of this once-thriving town
have become the ice in my soda.
Smiling wide, I swear I feel better
as I head back to the highway.
The horse has moved on to some plants
bursting out of the rusted trunk
of an abandoned car. He seems content
to gorge himself all day,
like this soft light mirroring the clouds
in the windshields of the faithful.
They emerge slowly and carry their songs
home, strangely hungry.
2012 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- First Place: “Wimberley” by Erica Lehrer
- Second Place: “Prayer for a Calf” by J. Todd Hawkins
- Third Place: “May” by Beverly Voss
- Honorable Mention:”Halsell, Texas” by Del Cain; “Unfinished Ode” by Mary Margaret Carlisle; “Window Shopping” by Lyman Grant; “Redbud” by Monty Jones; “Hunting Party” by Anne McCrady.
Selected by Barbara Ras
On hot days you could find him
down by the river and up a tree,
enjoying its cool. If she stood on tiptoe,
arms stretched skyward and he reached
his hands through the branches,
he could lift her into the leafy treehouse
where they’d be hidden from view.
Too young to work, too old to play,
they’d stare at each other wordlessly
smiling like maniacs, eating green
grapes, a breeze lifting the damp hair
off their foreheads, arousing in them
a restlessness they didn’t yet understand.
That boy is dead now. The tree, too.
Today, by the river, even the wind is still.
Prayer for a Calf
The summer bubbled fire ants and burdock thorns
and glistened in waves dappled
by the shadows of buzzards.
We watched the stock tank inch down
and preferred to talk about box scores and neighbors’ daughters
over the rainless sermons of weathermen.
We drove ten counties north for good hay,
something free of local briars and baling wire,
our old pickup hemorrhaging gasoline with every mile of road.
When the calf was born,
we managed to muster a feint of optimism,
at least in the comparative cool of morning
over bacon and good thick coffee.
But the mother we knew was over-equipped:
her teats swelled to the size of beer cans,
and the calf could find no way to nurse.
We had seen this with her before:
this cruel genetic curse.
She was a good cow,
but poorly suited for motherhood.
So as the days got on,
we closed our windows at night,
choosing silence over coolness.
Soon, we’d drive the fences and find the thirsty leather remains
and all our eyes would turn stone, like the pasture turned to caliche.
But for days, we offered silent prayers
for a calf to turn snake, unhinge its gentle jaws,
and take in the warm, wet sustenance
we hoped our world could offer.
To walk out in the warm morning,
pick up the paper—the one you know
is full of wars, hunger, slayings—
still, to feel warm grass under bare feet,
see mockingbirds and wrens
that survived both last week’s storm
and the cat next door. To see
that a rose and a blue cornflower
opened over night and that a vagrant
compost squash is blooming under cover
of the legitimate potato patch
is no small thing.
2011 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- First Place: “Waiting Inland for the Hurricane” by J. Todd Hawkins
- Second Place: “Saturday Market” by Dr. Charles A. Stone
- Third Place: “Bacchus in Texas” by Christine Boldt
- Honorable Mention: “Woman Claims Cheeto Resembles Jesus Hung on the Cross” by Stan Crawford; “A Cardinal” by Justin M. Robinson; “Odysseus at the Alamo” by Robert Wynne
Selected by Cyrus Cassells
Waiting Inland for the Hurricane
In the morning, gray and distant,
there will be coffee and the waves
of a child’s laughter when the images
of inundation give way
to Saturday morning cartoons.
Then, they say, will come the wind, rain.
We will putter nervously, bearing
the uneasy silence of pretended calm
as we hang old sepia family pictures
in the stairway.
Those grim faces from behind decades
of storms and loss will stare
and judge their progeny’s faith.
We will know the places they show
on the news. We will have strolled
their sunny seawalls and tasted their ice creams,
soft like rainbows must be.
We will know it is futile to tie this world together
with chain-link fences and swing sets.
Perhaps we will lose the young oak
we struggled all summer to free of fungus.
Perhaps we will lose more.
But now the house only sleeps
and the wind chime
only whispers the delicate peals
of painful anticipation.
A man should be planted horizontally,
toes up, eyes toward heaven
with a tombstone at his head
so he remembers when he doesn’t wake
in the morning that his days on earth are done,
his work and land passed to the next generation
who, with luck, will labor as long and scratch
as much from the hardscrabble forty acres
as he did, and with more luck than he had save
enough to send the kids to college so they won’t
have to race the morning sun to the fields
or sweat a bucket of Texas dew before crating
their produce and packing it into the bed
of a rusty pickup parked on the shady side
of the barn all gassed for the race to Austin
in the morning and a booth at the farmers’
market where slickers will sip iced tea
while they squeeze and pinch and sniff
and quibble about prices, each hard-won
bargain another line on the old man’s face,
another scar on the back of his hands.
Bacchus in Texas
Bacchus, a terra-cotta mask,
on the garden wall.
He’s an expatriate under live oaks,
although the sun sets as outrageously here
as it did behind black cypresses
and the raw ocher oven
where he was first fired.
Moss has worked its way into his frown,
has given a cast to one of his eyes,
has split the curl of his lip.
The children watch him warily,
especially when one girl is brave enough
to tease the daddy longlegs
quartered in his throat.
Then, their pulsing communion disturbed,
the critters whisker down his chin.
Bacchus and I rarely converse now
about the old days,
but at the Feast of the Assumption,
Ferragosto, we usually remember
how the heat of a Roman summer
would explode the cones of the umbrella pines,
graveling a dusty piazza with pignoli.
And, last year, when a spider webbed
a monocle over his bad eye,
I took his picture.
2010 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- First Place: “Late Spring, near Leakey, Texas” by Ed Madden
- Second Place: “Flying with the Crows” by Jerry Bradley
- Third Place: “October Round” by Stan Crawford
- Honorable Mention:“Spring in Texas: The War Years” by Marian Aitches; “Bony Fingers” by Mike Alexander; “Hill Country Galleria” by Robert Ayres.
Late Spring, near Leakey, Texas
This green season comes, in morning’s green
light, the sun dangling small and bright
in a green sky—a flash of fin, sunfish
suspended, cool and luminous in the green
water. Everywhere we look, the past—pawprints
at water’s edge, trees that keep repeating
themselves, small birds playing hide and seek,
cliffs of rock, striated and grained, remnants
of sediment, pressure. The sun rests on a bluff,
beside a cross someone built, a memorial.
Light drifts across the green water.
We cross the stream, dry our feet, pull on
shoes, roll down our jeans. Here, though nothing
is said, there’s a sense of something moving
through us, a sense of water and rock, darkness, light.
Flying with the Crows
That first night we roosted to dreams of grain,
And the blackest dropped down his head where we
Huddled as one. It was too cold for rain.
My feathers shivered when they fell, dark coal
Mined from the hole of the year, and hunger
Rotated like a cash crop in my soul.
Ah, but the plums, fixed fast in their sweetness
By the chill! And the thicket where they hung
Not a keen moment’s flapping to the west.
Skins, pulp—a supermarket for the beak,
The savory allure of dull hides
Inviting us to fold dun winter’s speech.
Turn cows on the corn—doughy, sad, and slow. . . .
My appetite rumbles like a taut snare;
My caws are brighter than the drum of snow.
Wind comes from the north now
like a clever joke. The stars
repeat themselves and we don’t mind.
Improbably blue days join hands
and stride by, fast and faster, past
the old escarpment, where live oaks
still glow green like brand new
dollar bills. How long we’ve traveled
to arrive just here, as clean
as cats, and kinder. By midday
the gold is raised, the joke
is still on us, and we don’t mind.
2010 Next Generation Indie Award, Karla K. Morton
2009 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- First Place: “Slice of Life” by John Gorman
- Second Place: “Crossing the Lake Houston Bridge” by Mary Agnes Dalrymple
- Third Place: “The Ripe and the Unripe Fruit” by Chris Ellery
- Honorable Mention: “It Could Have Been Paris” by Alan Gann; “Confessions in March” by Suzanne Geiger; “Eliza Visits the Cockrell Butterfly Center” by Ann Reisfeld Boutté; “Copper Thieves” by Beverly Monestier; “Change of Life” by Adamarie Fuller
Slice of Life
Luby’s a Texas woman my age farm background
chemical plant background maybe Beauty Shop hair
gay son dressed younger than his years
dark skies rainy afternoon another norther incoming
cozy in the cones of light over the plates of anything
took your fancy in the serving line. This is what’s nice
about a forty-year-old boy no commitments Sundays not
what she once expected but more attention than some get.
Snippet by snippet life goes on over recorded music.
Palm trees grackles out the big tinted windows
back in the lot the whole day will seem brighter
for a minute nice surprise a little one but take it.
He drives her home. He drives him home. One by one me too
we let ourselves into dark houses full of mirrors.
Crossing the Lake Houston Bridge
I notice something odd. To my left,
the lake is a drab olive green, the water churning,
metallic blue clouds and rain over Beaver Run,
where Mama and Daddy used to live.
But, to my right, blue sky and calm waters. And
I drive between these two extremes,
so close to that dividing line, trying to make it
home before the rain drifts further south. Then,
as if part of something I’ve long forgotten, a snowy
egret appears overhead, coasts like a paperboy
on a bike, resting tired legs. It glides from the dark
into the calm so gracefully, flaps its wings
to begin again. I think, what a perfect word for that
movement, gracefully, and pray to be carried
home on the wings of those three syllables. To be
lifted when I fall. To be lifted again.
Mary Agnes Dalrymple
The Ripe and the Unripe Fruit
The unripe can’t understand what it feels like to be ready.
In the season of sweet melon and cantaloupe,
The grapes cannot know their own luscious ripeness,
The heavy readiness to let go of the vine.
The green wheat, just beginning to sprout,
Like some poor child, all vanity and ego,
Thinks it wants to be young forever.
When pistachios crackle open
By moonlight, they are joyfully sighing,
Why did we not know?
2008 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- First Place: “Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Body Is Brought from Chicago to Wortham, Texas, by Pianist and Labelmate Will Ezell” by Judy Jensen
- Second Place: “Midday, Midsummer” by Kurt Heinzelman
- Third Place: “Early in the Morning, on the Road, near Franklin, Texas” by Alan Birkelbach
- Honorable Mention: “Seguin” by Sarah Cortez; “El Árbol Milagroso” by Katherine Durham Oldmixon; “In Bed” by Robert Wynne
Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Body Is Brought from Chicago
to Wortham, Texas, by Pianist and Labelmate Will Ezell
New Year’s Day, 1930
No car, no chauffeur. Two ashen horses
nicker wet and close through the storm’s static,
each hoof strikes a nail in the coffin’s lid.
It’s not the blizzard’s ardor stayed church bells:
it’s the weight of unmoored boys underground.
Stayed, the heart—in fields opening wide between beats—
sinks below the rhythmic counterpoints
of abundant drought and scant harvest.
Stayed, the mind—under the years’ chorded streams—
revisits bright, bright green seedlings strumming
in warming furrows, the feracious Texas soil
turning itself inside out, steaming, to receive.
All morning the wind
blew rain out of the black
trees now a weave of sun
waves across a wall
of nandina vanishing
like a ball it’s so bright
cicadas start winding up
their missionary pitch
a quick overcast and the
eyes have it a welcome
shade by the pool side
into the shadow of which
the shadow of a tiger
giantly light as a bat.
Early in the Morning, on the Road, near Franklin, Texas
Her skirt clings to her the way fog clings to a flower.
Her legs are curled up, her sleeping face soft like a saint.
Driving for hours a man thinks about how things are measured,
about how coffee always tastes better in small towns.
Her legs are curled up, her sleeping face soft like a saint.
St. Augustine said the eye is attracted to beautiful objects.
Coffee always tastes better in small towns;
the treasures of the destination make us take the trip.
St. Augustine said the eye is attracted to beautiful objects.
The full moon makes her skin glow like a statue.
The treasures en route make us take the trip.
I start out thinking in terms of miles and hours
but the full moon makes her skin translucent like a statue.
Her breathing is as fragrant and sure as moonflowers
and I stop thinking in terms of miles and hours.
She’ll wake up in a little while and touch me with her bare toe.
But for now, her breathing is as fragrant as moonflowers.
Driving for hours a man thinks about what makes things holy.
She’ll wake up in a little while and bless me with her bare toe,
her skirt clinging to her the way fog caresses a flower.
2007 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- First Place: “From a Reluctant Shut-In to a Confirmed Recluse” by Joe Blanda
- Second Place: “Undone” by Cathy Stern
- Third Place: “And Still She Watches” by Allison Smythe
- Honorable Mention: “When We Brought the Tree Limbs Down” by Alan Birkelbach; “Secret” by Leah Chin Christian; “Voyagers” by Jim LaVilla-Havelin
From a Reluctant Shut-in to a Confirmed Recluse
The birds notice first, talking it up among themselves
In dialects of bird talk that differ regionally.
It criss-crossed my mind
Like a flock of fractious grackles
How terribly quiet it would be
If the birds all left suddenly.
In my currently depressed and wingless state,
I could not hope to simulate
Their timeless flight across the sky—
These earthbound words
As close as I can come
To their more exuberant medium.
Not done, should have done, could have
done, would have done, might could
have (if you live in Texas)—was that
what the woman walking a block behind me
this morning in crisp sunlight and a leaf-filled
breeze was saying loudly on her miked cell phone?
(I turned for a moment, thinking she spoke to me.)
Or was that the incantation of my
January thoughts on the state of my life
(today, at least), insistent
in its hammering repetition,
in its withering accusations?
And Still She Watches
She watched the sky move toward El Paso
and how the impossible reds relaxed in their going.
She watched bands of small gray birds fly
forward in uneven lines over dim rooftops
without looking back, without asking.
She watched her own shadow standing, the shape
of what remained, expand to three dimensions
until the air hardened around her and she hardened.
She watched until the black heaven, the absorption
of all color, began to fray at its tentative horizon,
starting it all again and she went in to start the coffee.
She watches hours for days and collects her nights
in pieces like a woman who watches for morning
and loses one night at a time.
2006 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards
- First Place: “Passenger Station, Texas” by Ralph Hausser
- Second Place: “Pansies” by Sharon E. Young
- Third Place: “Summer in Texas” by Robin Cate
- Honorable Mention: “The Preacher’s Wife” by Jean H. Marvin; “Haiku” by Mary Tindall; “Along the Railroad Track” by Lounell Whitaker
Passenger Station, Texas
It keeps its memories of Texas swing,
excited children on their way to far-off
Dallas, trainloads of soldiers leaving home
or coming back at the end of World War II.
Forlorn, its windows vibrate only to
the passing freights; its rooms lie empty
save for now and then a boy or two
entering on some dare.
Never having seen a huge black engine
full of noise and heat and steam
that made more timid kids run back
to their fathers’ sides, they have no
frame of reference to make the place
more than just some dusty wooden
furnishings or secret haunt of creatures
of the night.
But then, imagination has a way
of making history seem real.
So on a quiet day, if you listen carefully,
you’ll hear the engine up the track,
and if you watch with eyes that still believe
you’ll see the train come lumbering past,
filled with people smiling wide. They’re
going home, you know, while the rest
of us will have to wait awhile
there beside the track, shaded by
the station at the city’s downtown edge.
In early winter on a Texas day,
I turn the corner on my way back home
from anywhere, and pansies greet me
with persistent bloom.
When I was young, I cherished
snowfall and the way our street lamp
caught like shutter frame the
glistening ice on frozen bough,
the drift of powder white.
I could be longing for those icy days,
but as the velvet pansies dress the walk,
they dance while breezes chase
my cares into their show
of purple flight.
Sharon E. Young
Summer in Texas
We swam all day,
all summer long.
Swam till our eyes
were as bloodshot
as the town drunk’s,
till our skin wrinkled
like sheets in the laundry basket.
We dove for pennies in
chlorinated water strong enough
to kill polio.
Dunked and splashed
each other till we were limp.
Crawled to the side of the pool
spread our bodies
on the prickly St. Augustine grass,
and tanned our hides.