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CONTEST 38 WINNING POEMS
(AUTHORS RETAIN ALL RIGHTS)


Tuesday Appointment

 

The girl on the BART train holds a sprig of rosemary,

a small plucked bit she cradles in one cupped palm.

Her body hitches as she breathes it in,

pushes down the scent or a sob,

down to her belly, tiny-curved.

 

Lisa Small, Dublin CA

 

 

 

I learned Braille

to feel what you’re saying,

now my hand weeps.

 

Mark States, Charlotte NC

 

 

 

The Eve of Beautiful Fruit

 

A red-covered book,

paged in bad order,

attracts seeing sense.

My teeth touch the apple skin;

worms have eaten-out meaning.

 

Donald A. Hagelberg, Berkeley CA

 

 

 

My hair has turned white

waiting beside the river

that never returns.

 

Allegra Jostad Silberstein, Davis CA

 

 

 

(tanka)

 

The balloon lassoed

a light pole so it could watch

the sidewalk glitter -

dark witness to the gleaming,

under the star-filled night sky.

 

Lisa Small, Dublin CA

 

 

 

 

Autumn

 

The swallows have left.

Our barn seems lonelier now …

only dust motes fly.

 

Allegra Jostad Silberstein, Davis CA

 

 

 

Amulet against Forgetting: Cento for Aimee Nezhukumatathil

 

In my car I found one of his frayed old leashes

and there you were—at least the idea of you,

with your hands still in the air, waving for balance.

 

I give to you four limes to crush,

teeth wet with possibility, a roundness,

breath, moon, one more reason to check under my bed.

 

Place me and my tiny red dog in the gardens. Try, just try.

This flower harbors the smoky secrets from a temple.

In the dark, I am a lovely little cricket.

 

If you take the arms off a clock, you'll forget how long

I will curl around you like

the trail of wild apricots.

 

Kathleen McClung, San Francisco CA

 

 

 

When the War is Over—Treblinka

 

Wobbly the way the earth adjusts as sunlight creeps to the camp.

Blow a wind and between each tree, a thread is coiled to remember

the hour the war has ended. The dead to be buried as the chimneys

 

tumbled over: detached from the walls before they fall all over as the

prisoners begin to leave. Scream the gates as snarling dogs whimpered

to show their dread. You cling at the fog dissipating as you taste the ashes

 

with your tongue. Undressed to the arms to show the scars and marks,

dented by stripes—and the numbers on the arms as remembrance. The

numbers do not show the entry gates to Hell but to reprimand the demons

 

so arrogant of your forthcoming demise, until they grew tired. The flames

still burn from the debris after they threw the broken wooden rafters

outside. We shall not die—we sang when the earth adjusts—wobbly

 

the way the sunlight creeps as we limp out of the camp in a new dawn.

 

Romeo Alcala Cruz, San Francisco CA

 

 

 

Postcard from Silicon Valley, Back Then

 

Perhaps he’d drive for Lyft part-time, my dad,

if he lived now. He'd do the math first, though.

In 1955 his spiral pad

recorded his route’s miles/gal. He’d throw

the bundles hard, his window down, but spoke

softly to Barbara, his passenger.

He listened, too, beneath the figs, palms, oaks

of San Jose. They married in winter,

returned the rubber bands for Mercuries

he didn’t fling on porches any more.

They circled want ads, possibilities.

He panned for gold at Gallenkamp shoe store.

She typed the lucky envelope, the resume,

and mimed surprise: high heels, size 8, for her birthday.

 

Kathleen McClung, San Francisco CA

 

 

 

Lethe

 

I lean out the window

its shutters winged open

to let night in.

 

The air is heavy with summer.

The street below absorbs

the colors of a Roman night

voices float up

nourished on the full vowels

of a Mediterranean tongue

their soft cadence a lullaby

waves splashing, drifting

back out to sea.

 

Janet Butler, Alameda CA

 

 

 

I Have Good News

 

in her blue and white tiled kitchen

she crushes garlic and ginger

chops green beans to be steamed

 

in boiling water

chickpeas are transformed

without suffering

 

in the heat of separation

of spirit from body

is there a need to suffer?

 

eggs separated in a yellow ware bowl—

the one we bartered for

in that estate sale

 

my wife’s cancer journey

this soufflé will not fall

 

Neal Whitman, Pacific Grove CA

 

 

 

Radish

 

This is not a poem of admiration or

appreciation, neither of us would allow

such a thing

 

this is a basket of mint and dill

hung with ropes woven from daisy stems

picked at yesterday’s picnic, after you

bribed me with a shake of salt

 

to bite into the radish picked by you

cut by you into an opening rose, your

hand offering one of its petals to my mouth

its cool sting on my tongue.

 

Eileen Malone, Broadmoor Village CA

 

 

 

I Live on Guava Street

 

The color of the houses are yellow whose windows

flicker like the fireflies that paved the way to midnight

and the owl nodded in acknowledgment with eyes

that do not blink: just keep widening and widening.

Its origin is the moon that round orb that white

invitation to a merry-go-round in the park. They are

the children called the Holy People who crawled to the

surface at the border of early morning through a hollow

reed, then formed from the ears of white and

pink corn. Some say it is born of Haiyan’s wrath,

curse that tore our town by its winds and rains.

What spurted up, they tell me begat this little street,

this ample road where I play hide and seek at the

dead of the night: the merry-go-round with my 100

million neighbors-playmates: I live on guava street.

My street has a mass of millions of taro leaves and water

hyacinths: my secret kingdom where the emperor

gave tree frogs to everybody to entertain them during

the rainy nights. Their songs I love to memorize

especially about three glistening golden eggs

below the stairs of nipa houses, waiting to hatch,

before sunrise.

 

Anita Odena Cruz, Hayward CA

 

 

 

A Visit from the God of Time

 

A feral tomcat

Appeared on my block

He looks like a lynx

A gorgeous stud cheek

On his left side

On the right

Cancer eats out from the bone

 

Maybe

Someone will catch him

Get him some treatment

Lop off his jaw

Keep him caged for weeks

Radiate that tumor

Save his life

 

Talk about solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short!

 

He looks straight at me

Like a statue

Of the two-faced Roman god of time

But so much uglier

And so much lovelier

In flesh and fur and blood and rot

Than in stone

 

Barbara Saunders, Berkeley CA

 

 

 

Belief Wars

 

Cup with Che face disassembles

on the floor—

fragility surprise!

 

Red tea oozes

proving

that time never gives back,

 

the weighty, solid ceramic,

round,

cuddled liquid for years

 

now transformed in a bump

it flowered open,

released

 

like a head in a protest crowd

for or against

the imperative of the moment.

 

Che, Mao, Marx,

Jesus Christ!

Mohammed.

 

How many dead,

how many more to shatter on your floors.

 

Bruce Bagnell, Berkeley CA

 

 

 

October Glosa #3

 

“Still dark.

The unknown bird sits on his usual branch.

The little dog next door barks in his sleep

inquiringly, just once.”

              – Elizabeth Bishop, “Five Flights Up”

 

Rattling glass wakes me,

insistence of wind—

what can it want from sleepers

and why this scent, such sweet wood?

Still dark,

 

and no sirens here,

only a hush, then the trembling resumes.

Pillows offer no logic now

but dim chimneys of dreams.

The unknown bird sits on his usual branch

 

and the cat curls on blankets, holy

and routine. North, in Sonoma,

horses trample grass, a hospital empties,

asphalt burns bare feet fleeing cul-de-sacs.

The little dog next door barks in his sleep

 

and I wonder if, waking, my neighbors

mistake this aroma as I do, imagine

a block party nearby, a muted dawn feast,

flimsy paper plates. I stand at their door, knock

inquiringly, just once.

 

Kathleen McClung, San Francisco CA

 

 

 

Lovebirds

 

He welcomed my words

like a parrot would a mirror

My every daily deed flying to him

on little electronic wings

That perched on his fingers

while he worked his own words into a response

And loyal as a homing pigeon

returned them home to roost

 

Back and forth

They would alight in front of us

Peck their way into a vein

Sometimes my words were sharp enough

to drain the pus from his past

He’d recover to write hardcore flights of fancy

 

But the infection of routine

spread like avian influenza

And reality healed it into

the soft vowels of friendship

Now letters land in an all too familiar nest

where we edit each other’s words

Like two old birds picking fleas

from the other's dulling feathers

 

Ellaraine Lockie, Sunnyvale CA

 

 

 

The View from the Tallest Building in the World

 

I took my grandfather’s hand

Clicked my jaw to pop my ears

We rose and rose

To the peak of Empire

Exited to the deck

Grandpa pitched his fedora back on his head

Put his hands at my waist

Hoisted me to the highest ring on the pedestal

Of the tower viewer

Coin slot fed, eyepieces came into focus

The grid below crawled with crowds

Scrambling for footing

Like captive creatures in my ant farm

He had made this climb every year, he said

Since he and the building were new to this place

Its construction, his prosperity,

Testaments to the rewards of hard work

And the possibility of progress

When I attempt to state my ambitions

In the time it took

To ride down from the 86th floor

I realize I never got back to the ground

And so I suck at elevator speeches

And so I am a poet

 

Barbara Saunders, Berkeley CA

 

 

 

The Debt to Pleasure

 

To pleasure owed . . .

               To pleasure lent. . .

One glance

               and bent

                              to every curve

 

Reason’s level gaze,

its balances, and so astute

at finding gray

 

never

 

               looks like this

               So quick to assent

               to stoop and climb

               So ready for demise

 

Her lips to

a demitasse

               Her eyes

               stirring yours

 

Above

the conversation’s

hem

 

               promise

               in her thighs

of harness

in her hips

               of falling deeper

               in the red

 

And o

but o

               the yield

               the yield

 

Al Averbach, San Francisco CA

 

 

 

Nomenclature in Montana

 

As children, there were no body-part words

for what the cows, horses, pigs, chickens

cats and dogs were doing

But we all knew they were making babies

And that it was as good and happy

as a 60-bushel wheat crop

 

This simplicity moved right into our farmhouses

where language for bodily functions became necessary

My father used Pisshole and Asshole

when he told stories to his cronies

My mother preferred a more refined Number 1 Place

and Number 2 Place for my brother and me

Like they were addresses

 

I didn’t know anything about Number 1 1/2 Place

until its basement flooded red after I turned 14

Exploration led to the discovery that Number 1 1/2 Place

was multistoried and that an entire finger could visit

And that it would receive and even welcome houseguests

 

No one talked about this kind of real estate back then

I didn’t know the word vagina until Junior Class Biology

I learned I wasn’t alone when the boy sitting behind me

whispered to his buddy that it was really a twat

A word I’d heard before in the halls

and thought was the past tense of twit

 

But I like thinking of it as my little piece of property

How its value increased exponentially when it served

as an annex through which two daughters passed

How it’s slowly becoming a historic site

Who knows how many men who slept there

will prove to be famous

 

Ellaraine Lockie, Sunnyvale CA

 

 

 

Nature Morte

 

Sweating pear, wormy cabbage,

            limp rabbit, moldy bread—

 

occasional crystal carafe, leather glove

or peach nude who will outlive the smaller creatures.

 

How odd the still life,

everything immobile. Predictable:

                                                a permanence

 

as long as the shriveled petal holds, tuft of fur remains,

the fish eye clear and not milky.

 

Once living: perfumed Bosque, hare posing on the downs

trout on the Klamath knowing just where to spawn.

 

We cut up nature to reassemble traces

            of our own scant memories,

 

paint brush creeping black dots of animal spore

into the scenario,

 

                                    kaleidoscope of fin, claw,

stem, root-end dissolved to blue glass and yellow stone.

 

Is it our nature to rearrange our clutter

like the industrious bower bird

juxtapose contradicting images,

reorder the universe?

 

Alabaster woman on a pedestal

bananas bunched and overripe at her feet

 

nubby oranges, the clumsy rat’s

bent nails

caught in a lace shawl.

 

Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento CA

 

 

 

Clothes Make

 

It’s not the netted voile of seventh grade

the wrapped bodice

cummerbund waist

flounced skirt of new menses.

 

It’s not the Peter Pan-collared blouse of modesty

the circle pin that whispers chastity

the white go-go boots of Carnaby Street.

 

It’s not the need to conform

sit at the popular table

be admitted by the ticket of cool shoes

else decorate cafeteria walls

 

blend with screen-printed orange birches

miles from the sensuous skin of paper bark

yellow leaf, broken bough.

 

It’s not the need to shroud oneself

in high school black

to shield the turning of the soul

 

the birth of new personae

our bodies grown, like tumors

beyond their banks.

 

It’s the act of veiling and unwrapping

the swaddling of the body in silken threads

the swath of satin skimming the belly at dawn

the cuff of a lover’s arm around your shoulders

the masking and unmasking of our hearts

the small door of the self slowly opening

to admit a pale drizzle of morning light.

 

Sandra Anfang, Petaluma CA

 

 

 

Consider the Berkeley View

 

My kitchen window

looks out to the East,

towards the University.

In spring the tree blossoms

snow on the parked cars.

 

Once the petal’s perfume

held my dreams,

my cheap car floated

on a white sea.

Do the trees remember?

 

The trees can cite

the history of this street;

when the speeches slammed

into the gears and levers,

when soldiers marched,

and teargas blew.

 

The trees know when the street morphed,

polished with success;

gardeners, maids, fresh shingles and paint.

 

Now Teslas and Beamer

whiten from the trees' snow

while the campus campanile

stands still, unchanged,

owning its place even when silent.

 

That spire authoritatively

unmoved by the boiling youth

beneath fighting for meaning,

for their own spot to stand tall

until they become what they fought;

unmoved, aged,

shelled in granite.

 

Perhaps someday they will

look out the window,

see the spring cascade,

the campanile,

and wonder about

thoughts which blossomed and blew away.

 

Bruce Bagnell, Berkeley CA

 

 

 

Pluck

 

One evening, barely midnight maybe,

   Wifey asked with eyes a-lit

“I wonder, wouldya-couldya Baby

   eat my pussy for a bit?”

So, chivalrous did I agree and

   smile warmly with my eyes,

while coaxing moans out with my free hand,

   pressed my face between her thighs...

She blossomed open like a lotus,

   squirming madly where she lay

as nibbling I was scant to notice:

   night had blossomed into day...

“Don't stop!” she called, her breathing buckling,

 

   “yes,” I answered, bowing meek—

though sore my jaw, I kept on suckling,

   never stopping all that week.

   “I'm almost there!” she kept insisting,

bringing me about to tears,

   as down I’d been, my tongue a-twisting

better part of twenty years!

 

Now, never doubt a man’s persistence,

   dying there upon that bed,

I promised her I’d go the distance ...

   I’d become the munching dead.

They buried us with service fleeting,

   causing but a meager fuss,

while underground, her was I eating,

   little worms were eating us.

 

Then eons passed, our bones were lusty,

   skull to pelvis just the same,

there flew a puff of something dusty ...

   FINALLY, she fucking came!

 

Clyde Always, San Francisco CA



Ċ
John Rowe,
Jul 29, 2017, 12:55 PM
Ċ
John Rowe,
Jan 15, 2018, 2:10 PM
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