Judged by Deborah Bogen
Gretel Grows Up
by Teresa White
Wild Poetry Forum
I never wander far from home
while the sun peels paint from twenty-year old
siding or the blood of rust trickles off
billboards over on Cheney highway.
Everything changes these old markers
year by lonesome year – the cocoon
of marriage fattens itself with more binding
with no hope of the silk splitting
not even when the morning glory wags
its blue trumpet and then is gone.
Forgetting greedy birds, I try bread crumbs,
bits of colored paper as I forget the brisk wind
in this dry season. The numbers on the houses
never look the same coming back. You’ve given
me a map, a compass, a goodbye kiss and once
I traveled all the way to the river and back.
I bake gingerbread in my spare time,
mix frosting for mortar. You helped me install
windows of spun sugar. Soon, I won’t
have to venture out. Already, people stop.
The poet’s use of the fairytale here is enhanced by both local imagery that rings true (“billboard over on Cheney highway”) and odd statements like “The numbers on the houses/never look the same coming back.” There is something here I want to question, even argue with, but the poet acts out Gretel’s refusal to engage with the sureness of the penultimate claim, “Soon, I won’t/have to venture out….” --Deborah Bogen
by Allen Weber
Uncle fell for a migrant girl,
as hard as an Alcatraz rose,
then perished with the harvest moon.
So wading through the wait-a-bits
at the edge of a freshly turned field
Grandma searched sad furrows of earth.
There’s no competing with Sorrow,
Child. Still unschooled in transience,
I asked if she meant to say, Love.
Don’t become what happens to you.
When the springtime plow turns loose
a bone, remember why it’s best
to keep a girl who knows how deep
to put the beast that winter killed.
Here is another poem that invokes an ancient story mode (“Uncle fell for a migrant girl,/ as hard as an Alcatraz rose,”) to say something current and biting (“Don’t become what happens to you./When the springtime plow turns loose/ a bone….”) --Deborah Bogen
by Kendall Witherspoon
I was just sixteen that eight-track March
thaw when I lied to your face, jumped
a Michigan highway fence with my red-eyed
friend Tommy, the one with the golden
thumb, the one with Edgar Winter’s hair,
the one who taught me about casting seeds
upon the ground, the one without a mother
to lie to and a drunken father whose backyard
beagles bayed along runways while his only
son hitchhiked under the trails of jets.
In Ft. Lauderdale we slept under bridges
with the adept girl from Athens, Georgia.
The one with a woven palm crown,
the one in the fluorescent orange bikini,
the one who called William Calley a hero,
the one who stole the sweater you knitted me,
after she did that guitar-boy for a song.
Later you said you dreamed of me sleeping
under cars, or abducted at a Winn Dixie
adopted by homeless Vietnam vets.
I reminded you of your brother then.
The one who ran to that Louisiana town
without his third wife and his lucky red truck.
The one who drank coffee in his vodka.
The one who owned the laundromat
with the peeling sign on brick, shouting
whites and coloreds welcome here.
The one who played piano by ear, you said.
The one I met when he was dead of cancer.
The one I take after, everyone says.
The rhythm, the pace, the dense imagery kept me reading about this difficult and unresolved coming-of age. This is the one that made me love the repetition of “the one.” --Deborah Bogen
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