|The Writers Place
February 2010 – January 2011
First Place Winner
Marian Kaplun Shapiro
Marian Kaplun Shapiro is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988), a poetry book, Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View Press, 2007) and two chapbooks: Your Third Wish, (Finishing Line, 2007); and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). As a Quaker and a psychologist, her poetry often addresses the embedded topics of peace and violence, often by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she was named Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts in 2006, in 2008, and in 2010.
“What’s True Is True”
What’s True Is True
whether you like it or not
whether I like it or not
whether or not it is good
for the world
(even if we knew, which
we do not). Perhaps
someday it will be clear
to us. Perhaps it will be clear
to our grandchildren. Or no clearer
at all: how rabbit
freezes, how hunter pauses, how
arrow flies and rabbit falls.*
*James Hillman, The Force Of Character. New York, Ballentine Books, 1999, p. 172
Second Place Winner
James N. Barton
Jim Barton, of Huttig, Arkansas, has been published in over 125 journals and e-zines nationwide. He is the author of one full-length collection, For the Animals Who Missed the Ark (Plain View Press 2008), and two chapbooks, At the Bird Museum (Dancing Rabbit Press 2009) and Music (Finishing Line Press 2010). He has won over 250 awards for his poetry. He lives in the pine woods of south Arkansas with his wife and two of their seven children.
“ Porch Swing ”
I’d always meant to hang it,
that old porch swing
that was so much a part of you.
Sunny afternoons sometimes
you’d sit, gently rocking
back and forth like a cornstalk
in the gentle breeze,
chains creaking their arc
through thick summer air.
I remember you’d share your swing,
sometimes with Mama,
sometimes with one of the grandkids,
but most often with your cat,
that great swollen orange moon of a friend,
always ready to touch and be touched,
to soothe like a smooth-running engine
purring and rippling beneath your hand.
For years after you died I kept that old swing,
storing it in closets,
shuffling it between outbuildings,
moving it three times before I realized,
too late, that it was slowly falling apart.
It would never agree to hold me,
to swing, to sway on a summer’s day.
At last, I hauled it away
to be burned on a pile of brush
on the land we were clearing off.
That was two years ago.
Tonight, I sit gazing at a faded picture
of you in that swing with your cat,
a smile on your face, and I think once again
I’ll go burn that old pile some day soon,
but not just yet, not right now;
outside, the moon has risen,
swollen, low and orange.
Third Place Winner
Nancy A. Caldwell
Nancy A. Caldwell practiced psychiatric nursing and clinical social work before becoming a writer. She obtained her B.A. in English at the University of Scranton and is taking graduate courses in creative writing at Binghamton University. Her fiction and poetry has appeared in the Tea House Review, Westward Quarterly, and Saraba Magazine. Several pieces have been accepted for publication in The Broadkill Review, a Journal of Literature and Barbaric YAWP.
“ Those Flapping White Sheets ”
I remember those flapping white sheets in the sunshine,
folded across gray rope dotted with wooden clothespins.
This is how you bleach sheets further, you told me,
and never put blue jeans in the sun
unless they’re folded inside out.
You permed your hair with Lilt; it stunk up
the basement, its smell lingering long after you were finished.
Lilt curled the short blond hair that framed your square face,
that face with those blue eyes and dark mole on your cheek.
Your white cotton blouse, tucked
into pale blue shorts gathered at the waist,
was so crisp and clean, like those sheets.
You used your wide shoulders, thick hands and calves,
those muscular calves that you
looked so comfortable in,
to carry out your work, do the laundry, clean
floors and cook hot dinners,
and those bare feet of yours whose heels cracked
so deep that dirt dyed them to support your long days.
You drank iced Lipton with fresh lemon
and sugar that you clinked and swirled with a special spoon
in glasses with golden leaves and trim.
When the noon firehouse whistle blew, it told me to go home
for lunch and dinner.
It called me away
from exploring Pennsauken Creek’s banks,
with my brother, or away from playing
dress-up dolls with Robbie, in that army tent of hers,
with all those colorful scarves that we draped
over breasts and tied behind our Jill doll necks.
I remember that old galvanized tub
you filled with water, put under the old oak,
and how Tom and I squished into it to cool off.
Wootsie Piggy, you called me,
when I returned from play that left me dirty
and messed up and happy.
Wootsie Piggy, you said again and again.
Today, when I slip between my own clean sheets, I think
of you, the lessons you taught me through everything you did,
smell the clean air, feel the sunshine
and the comfort of your sheets against my skin.
Third Place Winner
Cornelius Jones Jr.
Cornelius Jones Jr. (Cornelius LIFE Jones)
An actor, writer, and educator, Cornelius is living “LIFE” out loud and turning pain into art. He holds an M.A. from NYU (Dramatic Writing, Educational Theater, and Performance). He is a 2010 Lorraine Hansberry – Nia Award Recipient, and a Leo Bronstein Homage Award recipient. He is the creator of the performance piece HomoAffection and FlagBoy, an autobiographical one-man show, which earned him a 2008 Midtown International Theater Festival Nomination for Outstanding Performance in a Solo-Show, a Capital Fringe Festival 2009 “Best of Fest” award and has been featured on NPR. His poems “Momma Said…(A Hard Life)” and “Chicken N Shrimp Gumbo” appears in the 2008 & 2009 Writers Place Poetry Review and his essay “pianissimo: Memoir of a Black Gay childhood” appears in the 2010 MIGHTY REAL: Anthology of African-American Same Gender Loving Writing. Embracing all of who he is, Cornelius is featured in the Logo and Gilead sponsored PSA: “I AM LIVING MY TRUTH”, currently airing on MTV’s Logo Network.
“Still swimming (…I remember…)”
I remember going with you to Chesapeake Bay and I saw my first farm raised fishpond. I think there was salmon swimming in there. I remember when the boat came in and you, your fishermen friends, and Uncle John unloaded the wild caught fish: lake trout, shad, bass, and even live crabs. I remember a group of black men and white men laughing together knowing that this was a good catch and you all would be racking in the dollars. I remember this in Virginia.
I remember when I made momma cry ‘cause she looked at the calendar we always kept in the kitchen to remind us of important appointments and I think momma was checking the calendar for her dentist appointment and saw that I marked: June 21st, Dad comes home. I remember this was the day you came home from being hospitalized with pneumonia for over a month. I remember. I remember. I remember when you starred on the 6’oclock news…Something you tuned into daily, in our living room, but this day you were not home, you were in jail and you headlined the news that entire evening…In handcuffs they had you and tucked your head into the police car ‘cause you sold illegal dear meat. I remember being so sad...so angry…so confused. You saying, “I’m just doing what I need to do, ‘cause I ain’t gon’ be here for too much longer.” I remember.
I remember loving Kraft American cheese. The individual wrappers…going through 5-7 slices a day for 2 weeks straight, and you warned, “That cheese is gonna bind you up,” and I remember thinking you didn’t know what you were talking about and I kept eating my American cheese, and two weeks later, I learned my lesson. My bowels couldn’t pass through, and you had to buy me prune juice, which was so gross. I couldn’t stomach it, so you mixed it in with coca-cola and a day later you stood by my side as I screamed in the bathroom like a pregnant woman giving birth (as I would imagine momma giving birth to my hard-headed self). It finally passed through. You grinned and I said, “Yeah, I learned my lesson.” I remember.
I remember you trying to get your strength back, testing what life had left. I remember you trying so hard. I remember. I remember you lying in bed. I remember communicating through raised and lowered hands and blinks of the eye and movements of the lip. I remember your last nod…your last smile. The look of joy that you were completing your last lap…finally you could float with no support. I remember….as I’m still swimming.
©2010 Cornelius Jones Jr.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area where I’ve been writing since my teens. I’ve lived on a sailboat and in France. I’ve published a shit load of poetry, a number of short stories, and had a play produced in Portland in the ‘80’s. Sorenson’s Gift, the first book in a YA adventure series (four are completed), is scheduled to be released in April by Daily Swan Publishing of San Francisco. In addition to the YA series, I am currently working on several scripts and a spec series for TV.
“ The Mermaid ”
The sun has set beyond the waves
And she comes
A splash of silver
Wings of light and foam chemise
Riding in the wet spray
Mist on the tired ships
Resting in the harbor shallows.
She comes invisible
Save to the last man
Sailor on a final voyage
Trying to leave the blue sea
Blood of his bones.
He turns his weary shoulders
To the plank
To the shore
To the dry and empty earth
And stomps the sweet salt from his boots
But not from his eyes
Though he rubs them with a denim cuff
A frayed heart.
When in the fading light
Their eyes meet
Different beasts of the same sea
Of the same heart…
To the other a dream.
He sits in the salt sea
With drowned boots
While she sings
To a sailor’s ears
And fills with gentler breeze again
Sails of history.
Before his ancient eyes
That he might see again
That he might be again
That tousled youth
Who loved the sea
And faced her proud
And so they were last seen
Beside the sea
Who can say
Which was dreaming
And which the dream?