Winslow Homer, “An Open Window”
Portland Museum of Art
The June challenge called for poems with actual or metaphorical windows. This proved to be a popular theme. The judges were impressed with the poems. They picked poems for first, second and third place, which will be published here. They also recognized three poems for honorable mention and two for special citations. Those poems will be listed below.
Here is the third place poem:
The Woman at the Window
watches her children leave
for school, then for life—
sometimes for death—
but we won’t dwell on that now.
The mother at the window worries
the children won’t eat the nutritious lunch
she prepared and instead trade it for candy
or later cigarettes and then alcohol or drugs.
She stares out her living room window,
watches for the bus to bring them back.
The hours between speed along,
with household chores, shopping,
even flirting with her optometrist.
With guilt in her fluttering stomach,
she hurries home.
She remembers now.
The children won’t be coming home. Her son
lives with that woman almost old enough
to be this woman at the window.
Her other son was the one who died
the one she didn’t want to talk about.
It wasn’t fair. Isn’t fair yet.
Won’t ever be.
~ Jackie Langetieg
The judges said of this poem, “A heart-breaking tale of a situation that seems to relate to similar circumstances too often faced in our time.”
The walls are white,
Harboring opaque waves across baseboards,
Speckles of pastel blues and greens.
Old chairs spilling cotton filling,
Fabrics tattooed with cracks and tears.
Huddled near 100-year-old magazines.
Outside the ICU,
Some sit staring at shoes.
Folded hands, heads bowed, lost in prayer.
A slow, Blue-Jazz rhythm hums continually,
Windows peer at the rise and fall of lungs behind paper walls.
The elevator chimes at each floor,
Greeting guests with fringed windows,
Twins conjoined at the waist of Life and Death.
Every moment of silence is amplified
By the echo of footsteps,
Tiptoeing closer towards the EXIT.
Out misery, to the dining floor.
Men and women drag dining chairs
Across buffeted floors, trumpeting Musical Chairs
Scooting tables closer to hands heavy like drums,
Scraping maraca lunch trays, feeding food to empty stomachs.
Ascending the descent of heartbeats
That peak on heart monitors,
Archaic songs ricochet off walls in a building that feels miles long.
Reflections bounce off windows,
Carrying the constant rhythm of endings and beginnings.
A husband taps his fingers against armrests,
His foot becomes the bass of the hospital quartet.
He becomes the heartbeat of his newborn child’s Warrior Cry.
Happiness is born at the end
Of every sad song we sing.
~ Crystal Davis
The judges said that the last two lines made this poem stand out.
First place was awarded to the following poem:
A dowsing rod is useless here
in the predawn kitchen where
I skin fingertips against moon-lit
to divine the faucet
for the drink.
The fork-scraped fish guts
still in the sink
like some augury
a past fed and a future still hungry.
And then the man in the window moves
like I move,
stares like I stare,
fears like I fear,
and reaches for the light as I dare
when I flick the switch and
the killing dark.
~ Aaron Sandberg
Here is what the judges said about the winning poem, “Although there were so many excellent entries, and there were many that we could have chosen as the top pick, ‘Divining’ really caught our attention. The imagery is dazzling, "The fork-scraped fish guts/still in the sink" really caught our eye. The last three lines presented a super strong finish, ‘when I flick the switch and/ kill/ the killing dark.’ That from a killer poem.”
Regarding copyright: The individual poets retain ownership of their own poems. Please do not copy and distribute them without consent of the authors.
The judges awarded honorable mentions to “Piano,” by Mary McCormack; “Windows into the Self,” by Alex Andy Phoung, and “The Beckoning,” by Theresa C. Gaynord. They also awarded special commendations to “gaze out the open window,” an acrostic poem by Lucy Tyrrell and “Little Window,” a rhyming poem by Heather Hazlett.
Crystal Davis is a mixed media artist and freelance writer, editor, and social media marketer. She was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey and is the author and creator at Crystal Letters and the Co-Producer of OpenRoad Poetry. Her art and writing projects, Crystal Letters and OpenRoad Poetry, have collaborated with local arts non-profit organizations and artists across the Tri-State area. Her work has been published in several print and online publications, including MookyChick, In Her Words from Thinking in Full Color (2019), Emerging Poets 2019 and 2018 from Z Publishing, Megazine, Unapologetic Women, and PATHS. Much of her work is inspired by nature, color, and the utilization of practical craft through art in
the visual and written form. You can find her website at http://crystalletters.com/.
jacob erin-cilberto originally came from Bronx, NY and lives in Southern Illinois. He has written and published poetry since 1970. erin-cilberto’s work has appeared in hundreds of magazines and journals and he has published 16 books of poetry. His most recent titled, Pour me another Poem, Please was published by Water Forest Press, Stormville, NY. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times but finds the periods of creation as well as teaching poetry workshops for The Heartland Writers Guild, The Southern Illinois Writers Guild and the Union County Writers Guild the most satisfying.
Jim Lambert lives in Southern Illinois with his wife of 55 years and two desert tortoises. He is vice president of the Illinois State Poetry Society and a past president of the Southern Illinois Writer Guild. He serves as associate editor of Strophes, the newsletter of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.
Jackie Langetieg is an award-winning poet and writer. She is a Jade Ring/Bard’s Chair winner and has published poems, short fiction and essays in jourals and anthologies as well as three chapbooks, two collections. In 2019 she published a memoir, “Filling the Cracks with Gold,” and “Letter to My Daughter,” a poetry chapbook. She is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and The Wisconsin Writers Association. She is retired from State Government and lives in Verona with her son and two cats.
Aaron Sandberg resides in Illinois where he teaches. His recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Asimov’s Science Fiction, English Journal, Yes Poetry, One Sentence Poems, and Vita Brevis Press, among others. You might find him on Instagram @aarondsandberg.
Come back on July 1 for a new challenge!
© Wilda Morris