Thursday, December 29, 2016

December Winners - Cat Poems

Photo by Kathy Marie Penrod

The judges for the December Poetry Challenge were Jim Lambert and Jacob Erin-Cilberto. Here is what they said about the entries: The reason we picked so many was because this was a group of good poems. We are cat lovers and almost all of the entries reminded us of the great bond and love that can develop between humans and cats. These poems forced us to make difficult decisions. We do want to remind everyone--whether they placed or not, that no poem is a "loser", it's just that some poems are less in need of more work, revisions, etc., than others.

Since so many good poems were submitted, there are more winners than usual.

First place goes to “Cat Burglar.” The poet has paid particular attention to sounds

Cat Burglar

No creak, creep, crack or
crunch, no bump, thump,
or faintest whump,
no inkling the one thieving
at night in my diggings,
pilfering plundering.

Unfettered snooze,
refused—mystery brewed—
denied nod to my hazy noggin;
I spied,
moonscape obscured,
she a crepuscule murk,
like a phantasm
sashayed the wall.

A hissing meower,
swarthy, spry, prowler
waiting, salivating,
her witching hour.

Nightly, lithely,
slid uninvited,
lapping her tongue
like a spring that sprung
in my sweet clotted cream.

~ Marsha S. Smith

The second place poem gives us another perspective on our house cats:


Newspapers piled
      like     scattered    leaves.

Instinct battles domesticity.

Stoic defender--
like a Grenadier,
    silent, in front of the stove,
until morning comes.

The can opener’s whirr
says it’s ok
to forgo the hunt.

~ Carol H. Jewell

“Feeding the Stray,” the third place poem, gives us a bit of a surprise:

Feeding the Stray

I don’t remember when you began squatting in the yard,
a semicolon behind the gnarl of a bush-between-seasons,
but there you were, your limelight stare coring me. 

I opened a can of tuna fish & dumped it onto a paper plate.
You slinked back under the porch, shadow that you were,
waited until I went inside.  Months of me popping cans

& you dodging.  What a starved thing you were—sometimes
returning hours later for more.  What did I know of the sins
or graces you committed in the hours away, only that you

seemed famishment incarnate so I fed you.  One morning,
this same ritual; you devouring then leaving.  Then returning
moments later as if you hadn’t just been here, a furry déjà vu.

I took out the trash & you were impossibly crossing the street. 
I mean you were in the yard, how could you cross my path
without my seeing you?  I looked over the fence & you were

licking the edge of the dish.  I looked to the neighbor’s & you
were stretching under the car parked in the driveway. 
The dawning—like that of the magician’s top hat your hand

falls into, releasing the false bottom & you discover a white
feather punctuating the felt—proof not of the dove’s existence,
but evidence of it having been, at least once, wild hunger waiting.

~ Flower Conroy

First Honorable Mention was awarded to a poem that paints a picture as it provides a brief narrative: 

Sudden Change
Observations made of a spoiled housecat

Zara our twelve pound lump
of whiskered calico sheen
lay at full stretch playing
a cricket she had turned upside
down its thin legs batting air.

After permanently changing
the cricket’s outlook on life
she loses interest--then with
one more playful swipe
at the helpless spinning shell—

sashays on her way.

~ Michael Escoubas

The poem selected for Second Honorable Mention takes us to China and a natural disaster:

Sichuan Earthquake 2008

“Cats will open the door,
but they will never close it behind them.”
How simple the fact!
Or is it a symbol?
The fact is this—the government is corrupt.
Fear holds the populace behind the door.
Inside crowd suffering, darkness, overwork.
Outside truth splays itself unconstrained.
Inside a mother’s desire darkens her eyes.
Outside the child sparkles with life.
Ai Weiwei names the children
crushed in the earthquake, dead in their schools.
He opens a door, he twitters the truths.
Fear and fury enliven the police.
How simple the confrontation!
The cat has opened the door—slipped out.
Five thousand names flowed out,
accusing the authorities,
and will not be silenced.
How simple a cause for confinement! 
So sorry.

~ Julia Rice

Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist and activist, was confined for revealing the names of 5000 children who died in a poorly constructed school, which collapsed in an earthquake. This poem was inspired by the biographical documentary “Never Sorry.” 

Congratulations to all the winners! Please remember that the poets own copyright to their work and do not violate their rights. Check back at the beginning of next month for the January Poetry Challenge. You might be the winner.


Flower Conroy is the author of three chapbooks: Facts About Snakes & Hearts, winner of Heavy Feather Press’ Chapbook Contest; The Awful Suicidal Swans; and Escape to Nowhere. She is the winner of Radar Poetry’s first annual Coniston Prize and the Tennessee Williams Exhibit Poetry Contest, as well as a scholarship recipient of Bread Loaf, Squaw Valley, Napa Valley and the Key West Literary Seminar. She is poetry editor at Sourland Mountain Review. Her poetry has appeared/is forthcoming in American Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Gargoyle and others.

Jacob Erin-Cilberto lives in Southern Illinois with Elsie
the cat and teaches English at Shawnee Hills and John A. Logan community
colleges. He has published poetry in dozens of poetry journals and
on-line publications beginning in the 1970's. Several of his poetry
books are available at

Michael Escoubas began writing poetry for publication in August of 2013, after retiring from a 48-year-career in the printing industry. Early in life his mother said, “You have a gift for words; you should do something with that gift. He writes poetry, in part, because of his mother’s encouraging words. Michael also writes poetry because he believes poetry brings people together and that poets are menders of broken things. Michael has published one chapbook, Light Comes Softly, which is available by contacting the author.

Carol H. Jewell is a mother, wife, grandmother, librarian, musician and poet. She went back to school at age 52, at The College of Saint Rose (Albany, NY), and will receive her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) in December 2016.

Jim Lambert is past president of the Southern Illinois Writers
Guild and current vice president of the Illinois State Poetry Society.
He has had poetry, short stories, and essays published in various
publications. He has lived in Southern Illinois since retiring from the
business world a decade ago.

Julia Rice is a retired lawyer, a Franciscan sister, who is writing in her retirement.

Marsha S. Smith is a wife, mom, and grandma who recently discovered a love for writing poetry. She is a licensed minister through the SoCal School of Ministry and a Police Chaplain in her hometown.

© Wilda Morris