Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ad Astra Poetry Contest #8 Winners

Congratulations to winners of Ad Astra Poetry Contest #8, Kansas Wildlife: Steven Hind (Hutchinson), Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (Lawrence, next Ks. Poet Laureate!), Stephen Meats (Pittsburg), Bill Hickok (Mission & L.A.), Priscilla McKinney (Lawrence), Robert Stewart (Johnson Co.), and John Blair (Arlington, Texas & former Jayhawk).Competition was very, very stiff this time, and I selected shorter poems to fit the space. I appreciate all the entries that have come my way this month.

Further details and examples of my own Kansas poems are on the Kansas Arts Commission website: My thanks to Christine Dotterweich Bial and all the good folks at the KAC. Greg German hosts the wonderful site, which also supports this project.
This is the last contest, and many of you have up to eight new poems. I encourage you to use them as “poems in your pocket” today—take one out and read it to folks you meet. November is novel-writing month. Perhaps by then you will have a book-length manuscript of poetry completed.

All best, Denise Low

by Steven Hind

The fish that swallowed the fish
carried its last living victim in
the delicate raft of its ribs, as if
art had molded a story of
gluttony, or how unlucky hungers
end every story in the wealth of the
sea. On my spongy soles I stand
before "the most photographed
fossil in the world," as my bones
hold up the soft machine of my
breathing, my blood as salty
as oceans, and I study the jaw,
the awful jaw, made for reaping
first to last suppers, design frozen
into the slab of accumulations,
an awful tale from the depths of
a timeless time, and I imagine
accumulations: a million pictures
of the double fish, drifting into
another pocket of the past.
When The Rain Comes
by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

The clouds roll in,
shadows holding up light,
titled silver at the edges.
Trees everywhere turned,
sidewalks dry and wanting,
grass silvering
in stalks of wind.
The branches heavy
with blackbirds,
the old wall of sky etched
with worn lightning.
The whole fields lifted
to the breaking world
where, for a moment,
all that wants to be said is heard.
Evening Callers
by Stephen Meats

Just at dark three barred owls
whisper into the backyard elms.
For thirty minutes they circle
and swoop, or sit in silhouette
on dead branches high
against the fading light
and rollick a cacophony
of howls and coughs and barks
while a flurry of squirrels
skitter for safety on the under
sides of limbs.
Scrambled Eggs
by Bill Hickok

The drab diminutive cowbird
hops like a rabbit behind
her bovine friend.
Makes gourmet meals of
what’s left on the ground.
Her moxie does not stop there.
In spring she drops her eggs
with mercenary zeal
into the nests of strangers.
Meadowlark becomes motherlark;
killdeer, mommy dear;
the prairie sparrows and grouse—
all oblivious surrogates
for these street-smart cruisers.
Gone the nursery and teenage
tyranny. These master sleuths
of the midland flats have
feathers of their kind and
brains that gleam.
Avis Tyrannosaurus
by Priscilla S. McKinney

Growing pale under feathers,
most birds back off from a predator,
giving a bluejay some space,
when he comes to their feeder.

I saw a poor wren pecked to death once
who failed to defer to his dominance.

Watching him run, stalk, and attack,
I see in this present-day seed-eater
his less sleek, unfeathered ancestor,
the monstrous Jurassic meateater.
Hunt It Down & Kill It
by Robert Stewart
I think I could live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained. Whitman

There it is, placid in the tall-grown
Kansas backyard, the rabbit that loves
to flaunt its white behind if our back
door creaks open, or if I stand and look
at it long and long; the rabbit knows
it can stretch its legs far into this state
toward the six-foot privacy fence,
the gleam of morning light in wet grass.

There it is, so self-contained no one
has heard it whine or lie awake weeping
for its sins, though warned by poets,
failing in its duty to God. We kneel,
Dog and I, by the lilac bush to stalk
the demented mania of all things
poking around, ears hand-signaling
the birds that fly and fish that swim

the limitless prairie lakes and skies.
There it is, eyeballing its escape hole
that it might live, also, with animals
not respectable or unhappy even if
a shadow drifts over the earth, sharp-
shinned or Cooper’s hawk, or me
loping in the tall, wet, grass neighbors
sneer at. Lazy, they say. Oh, placid.
Birdfeeder Karma
by John Blair

Take care before
You hang a birdfeeder
Imagining how mellow it will seem
To see your feathered friends
Clinging to its sides
Or hopping all around
On the ground beneath.
Unless you aspire to be
Dispassionate, objective,
A self-distancing observer
Of these non-human species,
You will soon discover
You have linked with other lives
And are a part, in no small way,
Of their existence.
And when one winter day
You find small bones, a skull,
A pair of ragged feathers
Half-hid beneath the leaves
Where last summer
Sparrows hotly chirped
And bluejays jeered,
The tiny pain you feel
Is the gift you gave yourself.