Friday, November 29, 2019

November Challenge Winners: Gifts

Inukshuk, Tide Line
Photo by Karla Linn Merrifield

The gifts mentioned in the poems this month were as varied as those in the example poems posted on November 1. There are four winning poems. In addition, there are two honorable mentions this month: Tyson West of the state of Washington for “Two Doves for Dorothy” and Prithvijeet Sinha of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India for “Noel’s Big Day.”

There is a lot of word play in Karla Linn Merrifield’s poem as she tells us what she wants for Christmas:

The Properties of Rock

This holiday season
I am hoping to acquire
the properties of rock.

I could really use
a stocking, maybe two,
full of porosity.

If Santa Claus can only deliver
something so-not-Vogue,
this year I’ll dress up
as a creature of interstices.

I wish to celebrate your simple gift
of permeability, long to weep
right through my own soft stone.

And what I want for Christmas, honey,
is chemistry. I want to be the limestone
worked on by water for eons.

And, should you throw in
three or four more books
on Great Basin paleogeology,
I’ll be perfectly calcareous.
I’ll be the propertied rock of love.

~ Karla Linn Merrifield

Bob McAfee, who wrote the next poem, must have had his tongue in his cheek. He plays with malapropisms (another kind of word-play), while maintaining the arch of the narrative in his poem.

The Gift
For your birthday I’m learning to pop lead balloons
with a sugar toothpick when all you asked for
was a flaunt-proof copy of your poetic license.
My lips are sealed in your own self-interest.

All you requested was a flak jacket to wear
navigating your tone-drone when violating enemy
airspace in the no-lie zone but I gave you a ball gown
with a princess crown and angel wings.

The year you asked for a basketball and
a Buck Rogers decoder ring with a twisty dial
I gave you my words in a chapbook as you
fought in court the suspension of all disbelief.

Remember the time I gave you the choice:
me or what’s behind Door Number Three –
you answered with a Mona Lisa simile,
pretty as a picture, mighty like a rose.

This is the year when I give you the world, 
a contribution to the reliquary  
where you keep your vestiges,
O Madonna of False Preconception,

as you wave to the homeboys singing hosannas
behind your back, leading the twilight scramble
down Saint Mark’s Square, crossing the Bridge of Size
to your sell in the palace of the Doge.

We sit on a bench near the statue of Charlemagne
in front of Notre Dame, you feeding pigeons
to an allez-chat before we cross the love bridge
(Pont Des Arts) where you handcuff a homeless man

to the railing in a display of eternal affectation. 
Early in the mourning of summer poultice we circle
the rocks at Stonehenge until the light strikes exactly
at thirty-seven degrees refraction and reaching

into my pocket, I disgorge a small box containing
a gift that will last forever, something small and shiny,
something round and golden that you wear on a finger;
you guessed it: a Buck Rogers decoder ring.

~ Bob McAfee

Judith Tullis reminds us how many gifts we take for granted by focusing on an every-day gift.

A Special Gift

Daybreak is a special gift,
a time to discard the tired tropes
of yesterday along with midnight’s
wanton dreams. I can float, unmoored
by past mistakes, misgivings, misfortunes,
free to absorb the buttery warmth of sunrise.

I revel in a blank page of quiet before
the layering of sounds begins – whispers
of cottonwood leaves, imperative call
of a cardinal at the feeder, rumble
of a school bus or a spouse’s murmur
when reaching warm arms to share
the magic of his awakening.

Until the last dredges of sleep have departed,
we lie content in the other’s presence,
a familiar habit that never disappoints,
the condition in which each day is
celebrated because neither of us knows
when our morning will forget to come.

~ Judith Tullis

Elaine Sorrentino’s Mother

There is an old Chinese folk tale where every good thing that happens turns out bad, and the seeming disasters turn out to benefit the characters in the story. Something like that happens in Elaine Sorrentino’s poem:

The Gift of Water

No choirs sang, no trumpets blared
no fanfare announced its arrival,

it was neither wrapped nor ribboned
boxed nor bowed,

no one hid it mischievously behind their back
or told her to close her eyes for a big surprise.

Her gift arrived, first as drips from the ceiling,
then as a waterfall, cascading down archways and walls,

this gift of water that soaked life as she knew it,
blessedly destroying her two-story living space,

precipitating a move to more appropriate quarters
for an 86-year-old with bad knees and a failing memory.

She may not realize it,
but Christmas arrived early this year for my mother.

~ Elaine Sorrentino

The Water-Damaged Home
Photo supplied by Elaine Sorrentino

The poems above are the property of their authors. Please do not copy without permission.


Bob McAfee is a retired software consultant who lives with his wife near Boston. For several years he made an hour train commute to and from Boston and developed the habit of  writing in that fixed time. He continues to try to write two hours every day. He has recently published two books of verse and a book of limericks and nonsense rhymes. A fourth book is simmering on the burner, due out in early 2020. His style is eclectic, but his goal is producing poems with both fierceness and a reluctant sense of optimism. 

Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 700+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select) is the newly released full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. Her Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills Publishing) received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is a frequent contributor to The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, and assistant editor and poetry book reviewer emerita for The Centrifugal Eye.

Elaine Sorrentino is Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA, where she creates promotional and first-person content for press and for a blog called SSC Musings. Facilitator of the Duxbury Poetry Circle, she has been published in Minerva Rising, Willawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Writers' Magazine, The Writers Newsletter, Haiku Universe, and Failed Haiku.

Judith Tullis is the former Vice President and current Treasurer of the Illinois State Poetry Society and the current Secretary of the Poets and Patrons of Chicago. She lives in a small house with a large garden where poetry often happens.

Come back next month for a new challenge! In the meantime, you might like to read this book:

© Wilda Morris