(sponsored by Flying Monkey Productions Kingston, NY)
Winning Poem " I Was Never Under Quarantine "
Honorable mention " Social Disgracing "
Judge: poet Cheryl Rice
Thanks to the Authors League Fund of Brooklyn, NY for their assistance during the difficult times of 2020.
Ode to Orlena
31 January to 2 February, 2021
New York, and surrounding maps,
has not had a witch cast such spells in years.
Her grey breath travelled across the country,
in a late January omen of early February,
where all shadows were hers.
Men toiled to ransack her studio,
shred her cloak and tear her gown;
scatter quiet consternation, to freshly sculpted mounds.
Mistress of a Grand Solar Minimum—
angry issue of a colder epoch;
Sweep dark fields with acres of nimbus brooms.
Knit shrouds of ice consequence to cover pawprint remnants,
of lost animals and hidden humans.
Insurgent snowplows traverse village lanes and county roads,
stifling your blizzard harmonics; scraping pavement—
a bloom of golden orange sparks, before Sunrise.
2 February, 2021
Moonlight on Eagle Cliff
(a Black Rock Forest poem)
I have yet to see Moonlight on Eagle Cliff.
Wandering Black Rock Forest by day;
alone at the old stone house in the night.
I’ve stood as winds pushed me towards doom,
but haven’t been cliffside in silver at night.
The Pitch pines in Winter; dry Oak bark lichen;
acorns and dead leaves tossed at my feet.
No other vagabond hiker or ghosts,
as gusts cry through hollows, and snow becomes sleet.
From Spy Rock to Jim’s Pond, snow blanches the night,
to orgies of Equinox, at Mineral Springs.
The forest refreshed with April’s soft dew;
Deer trails at Dawn; and scatters of wings.
Summer’s cross visage; sweat-wrinkled brow,
furrowed in crops of maestro humidity.
Alas, Phoebe! No beams from Diana’s pleading glow;
no lullaby of Luna at nodding Sunflower rows; to leaf crop harvest amidst frost strife.
I have yet to see Moonlight on Eagle Cliff, late at night.
March 23, 2020
August, in Black Rock Forest
Black Rock Forest, Cornwall, NY
August, in Black Rock Forest, sundry twigs and dust.
Continental Road wanders above Lower Bog Meadow,
along a hill, south of the ancestor pond—
a cloud pensioner, bereft of rain,
despite recent limbs felled by a tropical storm.
Spruce-hidden Catbirds, converse by the Babcock House,
during a parade of young Toads.
A haunted, green well pump,
across the road from the stone abode,
recalls meditations of water over the dam at the reservoir.
Yet, all roads are dry—despite an earlier tempest.
Monarchs’ Milkweed sanctum; Queen Anne’s breeze considered lace—
her bouquet of Red Clover and Chicory, at the foot of resilient Mountain Laurel,
where Sparrow contraltos warn of storm.
Bumble Bees flee a truck bounding through the leaf bestrewn road,
only to return to their efforts at pollen gardens.
Scrolls of Hickory bark tell gothic yarns of an older silence;
nestled amidst remnants of Hemlock pines, White Oaks, and nuts,
scattered at the bench of glacial Sandstone.
The haunted, green well pump, across the road from the settlement house,
flakes of rust abound in fresh mud at my boots;
well water as relief from ornery Summer’s solar fixation.
We do not tramp to the waterfalls, for fear of scant trickles, and mosquito- usurped puddles.
We care not for crowds, who desire easier access from Mountainville
or the sign-addled, shadowed road, from Old Mineral Springs.
The forest awaits September’s stage change; where colours ripen; rains are colder;
aromas of Autumns past, imbue the tapestry of deciduous hues.
August 29, 2020
First Presbyterian Church,
Village of Florida, NY
Late February gales buffet and carry a senior Crow,
as she attempts to land on the steeple of the Presbyterian Church,
where shingles and boards have been pried away in weeping gusts.
The sky is a colonial bed of wet, grey blankets.
Mold-stained white paint pealed by storm anger.
The bones are dark and damp; over two hundred years old.
We have prayed inside the mind of the building.
Never have we observed the curator wind, at his gallery of regret.
February 27, 2020
Enigma of the Night
In a garret, immured in parchment, gazing through cracked windows;
early morning candlelight; until at night—
I wander the streets, a man distinct from day.
Stevenson could not render me; with pills, potion, nor powder
as stark darkness’ scholar; I am seen by towns-folk, but not remembered.
Courting schemes for a word-littered life:
from café, gallery, bookstore; calling scribes of the past.
Grey daybreak finds me cold, sneaking home like a mouse, ignored.
Slowly climbing dust-smitten stairs; the third floor, to hide.
Apart from the rain and Sun to abide.
Papers stacked— from boards to rafters; with candle, books, and quill.
November 7, 2019
January 21, 2020
Sisyphus boulders; Promethean cinders;
Ulysses sail boat wrecked—
recast as Winterreise’s toil.
Walking backwards to the past; perpetual snares; swamp gasses;
feral noises in forlorn woodlands; another cliff; another fen.
When, oh when will the trail lay clear of brambles;
other peasants’ foibles; other people’s troubles?
When can I tend my own vineyards and gardens,
without playing chess in the urban dominion?
Target of a modern trajectory; a cog in the field of the penitents’ factory?
Let me trudge to a one room schoolhouse—
I’ll keep it secret.
I’ll make a pact to stay in the mists of the atavistic.
Leave the path of an itinerant preacher—swear!
And I’ll promise not to come back!
January 10, 2020
The Ranting of Seagulls and Crows
Shoprite, Warwick, NY
Seagulls are born of blank, carnivorous snowbanks,
They dance over a supermarket parking lot.
Crows patiently observe those gulls wounded, ill;
Dying of winterblight.
Some people are raucous Crows—others are magical seagulls—
I have seen people who are born of Crow and Seagull union,
urban hybrids of inland and shore.
I moor in the car—a sea of pavement, icebergs floating; snow fodder;
dropped from the mouth of a snowplow.
Diesel, with death in its name, barking to Crows
as they recite stark Poems of December wind gossip.
The store is aviary: flocks carry refuse to pack nests.
Old seagull limps on leg ruined by blue fishing line, tangled; dangling but not quickdeath!
Fishermen are kin to deer and bear hunters.
They cast Styrofoam cups, cans, snares, barbed hooks
to moss beds; tree limbs on lakeshore.
Shoppers are hunters and gatherers of a different species.
They drop millions of cigarettes, paper and plastic, phlegm,
dog dung scattered around solipsistic cars.
Some humans are mordant crows, or common, feeding seagulls—
flocking to Ego roosts and Id stripmalls, where all is for sale,
and all will sail on Winter gusts if startled; but raving,
spying birds of prey when kindred steal from their manufactured food chain.
February 19, 2004,
November 27, 2006,
December 1, 2019
Rain, on a September Morning
Sunflower yellow powder, honey-scented, late Summer.
The glass vase on the kitchen table was my mother’s.
The family’s house, left to us.
A colder season shops at a thrift store—
clothing for early Autumn, to arrive in three week’s time.
Cooler Breezes incant rain, build bubbles in puddles,
quickly bursting the tiny globes as they float.
A lone, yellow Walnut leaf, dislodges in mist,
floats to the wet and darkened grass.
September 11, 2019
Frost fingers strip Maple leaves in morning; winds took the Ash, rain got the Elm,
Oak remains defiant, but he too will be icesheared.
Frost grabbed the hips from my denuded rose bush; caps of ice and dimmed their blood;
toughening soil as the brown boudoir of Autumn congeals.
Trees know ghosts!
They welcome them in Autumn; contend with their endless rhetoric,
sibilance, and wind laments in Winter.
Pines hug spirits; crying turpentine in Summer mad swelter,
copious resin when left alone on the edge of evening,
facing a night of endless ice, and stark animal wars.
Where would trees sway to stay in the scant Sun of December?
Long, grey limbs of the Beech,
hanging on to her headdress; hugging armfuls of copper-shined leaves,
held close to her head as Crows crowd roof in deference to the chimney altar.
She wishes with her siblings that she could sit atop the roof with Crows,
but knows that to fall, would destroy the house;
ruin the heat; crush the frosted world of huddled humans.
November 9, 2017
November 11, 2017
January 24, 2018
Red on her dream-blue dress.
Crimson leaking, on her Dawn-blue shawl.
Sunlight holds her roseate morning aloft.
Tarot fragments, atop a Maple.
Encrimsoned sheets tease her gown.
Scarlet statements scatter to the ground.
Dew glistens on remains of Night’s shadows;
Cold lawns—bare feet no longer abound.
Red soaks her leaf-brushed sweater;
Wet stones lost to Time-burned weather.
October-Red! The Maple’s garments.
October scarlet—Virginia Creeper;
October’s tannic fire in fading twilight.
A late Harvest bushel, for a dying season of Light.
October 11, 2016
Beyond Satie, I hear yelling in the street.
Just after opening the second floor windows to a May morning,
expecting Sparrows to speak from Rose of Sharon.
Gnossiennes is shattered by an unseen stranger, slamming a car door.
Beyond the cd’s vernal outpouring:
other people’s schedules—
louder than a rural morning in 1890;
come not to my door, as an angry ode to frenetic, urban dance,
but through the window,
stealing the breath of a bohemian piano;
where the blundering offspring of entertainment’s plot against inspiration,
tramples gardens; scatters birds, and fells trees, beyond Poetry; beyond Satie.
May 29, 2019
Summer’s Ephemeral Portrait
Grass Sparrow, eating Hornbeam blossoms; Phoebe sings of Daisies.
Honeybees return to the aged barn.
Screech Owl perches on a rafter.
Breezes brush soft, Maple hair.
Green manger for Orange Daylilies; Clover aroma in the air.
Morning Glory is selected scarf for Rose of Sharon.
Garter Snake, and Garden Spider; Dragonfly distraction.
In Summer’s ephemeral portrait, there stands a phantom.
We were warned, when cold, from Crows;
in green by manic Robins.
A ghost, floats above snow in winter;
now in hem-high, listening grass,
staring as stark specters do; eager to return to flesh.
June 8, 2019
At Pacem in Terris
The Wawayanda creek spoke verses to July’s Dog Days,
as the Chamber Organ tuned and patrons waited
to enter the remains of the old water mill.
A woman wandered the sculptures.
Her red blouse bespoke Summer flower gardens and her smile reversed time.
She had not heard Theorbo nor Viola da Gamba,
but past lives are often forgotten in the new world beneath the Sun.
Ancient river beckoned and we surveyed the grand cave of the mill;
where Italy met England, over 400 years ago.
The trees whispered tales of eldritch people; ghosts watching in approval.
The woman sat in awe of holy music, noble, untroubled, and at peace.
August 11, 2015
May offered glimpses of Winter-released garbage, on the mud-mired creek bank.
A black coffee maker, half-buried in stream sludge, standing close to the currents;
lid open, container full of rainwater. No carafe.
An Ermine swam across the waterway; climbed ashore, over leaf and moss near the dead
machine. I gazed from the bridge above dark fluid, as Blackbirds and Finches called.
He is harboring the coffeepot in his den.
Ermine may have turned the creek to endless coffee;
beans stolen from nearby farmer’s market, pungent dark roast ground by his fangs.
June 1, 2018
A Meditation on Ravel’s Trio
May’s chilled fog and deep rains have beckoned all
to introspection’s meadows.
A Piano calls beyond the garden’s slate-grey walls.
Cello and Violin rains punished the remaining white blossoms,
creating rivulets in cold mud, like those of the dark, Great War.
Honey Bee colonies hidden for days, return,
when Sun blooms for a promised afternoon pageantry.
February 23, 2016
Snowmelt Ides in March
Mid-March, and the firmament is grey, like a turbulent creek in snowmelt.
A light breeze buffets dead leaves; snaps old tarps; plastic bags, and forgotten flags.
Spring is struggling to be born.
The heavy cloud’s water breaks!
Daffodils and Crocuses crown—
Sun Doula guides the new mothers in rough winds.
The air becomes pungent with rain. Old glacial exhalation above winter-tired church spires,
manors and shacks; waking forests; damp and desolate meadows.
In Frost’s pasture, the spring sings up through ancestry’s leaves,
withered grasses, careless straw; and offers clear drink to chanting Geese,
fraternal orders of Crows,
reciting verses from the Romantic Era of late Winter.
March 15th, 2016
Omen on a January Morning
He arrived at Dawn to speak with a silent coven,
atop the grand Victorian building on Main.
A large, angry pickup blew through the ice-stern street,
like a troubled Autumn leaf dislodged from my thoughts.
Aurora’s disciple did not flinch at his warm, chimney pulpit.
He turned to watch the purple clouds scab to consternation’s Grey;
saw me observing him, from my garret window.
Fellow Vultures called— crouching on the rooftop, shoving the horde.
He raised one wing from his shabby perch.
No Maestro Hawk, but a playwright, above drowsing commuters.
Snow keeps Memory; Ice jails Desire throwing plans to disarray.
I can not see their breath, but the fifteen black emissaries, are a morning collegium;
watched by a chorus of Crows, who bark challenges to a waking snowstorm.
January 25, 2015
He dances, waving commuters on,
Under a bleak, late autumn sky.
Which ballet is this?
Crisp November aires—
crows taunting, cars haunting his afternoon and evening.
Who is this grandfather of school children’s safety?
He swings the red, plastic stop sign—
quixotic thrust, but his windmills are giants!
The chaperone of shadows, as dawn barely tinges the winter clouds.
His bright orange and yellow vest is a carnival costume.
His hair and moustache, a shade of winter fields—
cheeks chafed by sharp Sunrise gusts,
and his baton is a scepter—
mocking royal coaches as they hurry along the cold highway,
never turning to his theatre; as children on buses do,
missing this jester at the end of an empire, a clown in the circus of rush-hour.
A Legacy of Grey
Applying shadows to a Spring afternoon; recalling Winter, without the woe;
recanting promises made to a Crow; wandering with a burden of poems.
A leaf, a sheaf of colder breezes cast from North cloud ego,
as a reminder of the ephemeral season, with atavistic paints of Autumn.
Fog and mists hold flesh in stern garments; worn in word armaments—
folly and regret renewed in damasked thoughts.
Daisies reach through forlorn pastures of mood;
call to creekside Lilies, and White Birch woods, release tawny Fox prophet from
legends, out to a meadow, where Sparrows guard secrets of sectarian Crows,
whose séance secures rural ancestors—manors of ghosts; cadres in continuums of rain;
endless hues of grey; to nurture moss, mould, and grains,
before sprouts and Butterflies faint in the Dog Days.
May 31, 2017
A Cemetery in Goshen
The November sky pours deliberate crows, washed from private thoughts
behind a massive, Celtic cross— lichen brushed by rough thighs of a grey wind.
November winds seduce each other in the watching cemetery.
I read Dickinson, and follow her carriage, just ourselves,
with strong coffee, after spilling it on my book.
The dead would prefer that I leave.
I impress them with dark verses.
An old man walks, out of a mausoleum, past my car, from the past
To the bars of iron, and through them.
Oak oil breath emerges, but there is no nearby woodpile.
Farm ghosts rise from rain darkened sod, through scattered leaves.
Tireless sentries of the naked orchard, dressing her in their dream fog
To protect her slender limbs from the withering Winter cold.
October 13th, 2011
Beethoven’s 9th Sonata
The piano sonata is Autumn leaves,
dyed in sound, chasing each other
like giddy schoolchildren
down a blustery country lane.
The leaves dislodge from the keyboard tree,
headlong to a path of afternoon windplay.
Orange and ruddy rustics carry softer yellows along,
coaxing those still younger greens with red freckles and wild opinions.
Yet, when grey brushes brood into later tones of day—
colder hues call the leaves over frost-dressed stone walls,
beyond harvest-abandoned fields,
and shadowed wells, quieting pliant faces to discs of ice.
Now Winter’s recital intones solitude,
notes hung like breath garlands above the gloom,
speaking in rustled pages; keys of frost and snow,
outside the desolate hall.
December 8, 2009
Above an algid, metal pan of seeds, the pair appears on Christmas morning!
He scouts the powdered rain;
she clings fast to a swaying feeder;
he routs through snow-blessed Millet, for the black gem of Sunflower,
presented to her— a Yuletide gift on a sacred morning.
January 17, 2018
The Yellow Monarch
The Yellow Monarch visited in his spirit cloak; past the apiary clock,
in the wall of a senescent barn.
A Crow carried bread over the yards.
Robins—spies for the Equinox,
having renewed their contracts, maintained their lawn outposts.
The Butterfly was an epigraph of the Sun’s poem; a voice of silence at Dawn.
A brief transit of thought along a brambled path to the Garden.
Mullein skeletons swayed in Clover and Timothy grasses.
Farm tractor field hand traversed haunted peat moss,
and white Willows on creek bank, trembled as breezes reminded of old country past lives.
The creek was ripe in natal Summer wildlife—
birddive sky antics—Goldfinches chased a Red Winged Black Bird as he called;
Swallows fell from wind-severed storm clouds.
Yellow Monarch maintained his court, in defiance of the setting Sun.
June 21, 2017
Night, Chester, NY
Main Street— old end; lamps wear Christmas wreathes.
Pass in car, wander afoot, sail on Crow wing.
Winds sing soot crumbs down freshly warmed chimney throats.
Oak rubs his hands together, seeking songs of summer.
Sparrows pray atop a church manger’s roof.
Magi and cattle don night-painted frost.
All but the infant stand in dried, elder Oak leaves.
The Snowstorm’s wet aspersions became a festival of brown receipts.
Maples and Oaks rule the lawns.
October’s haughty hues—
held in dusty trunks; dream ledgers,
collected in each house, barn, memory church.
Ghosts from the opera house wait for a train;
sit in the café, with Blues in its name.
Bare bulbs of Rosehips tremble in leafless shame.
Only the winds now know her.
Glories of the garden, rendered to a stain
of mulch upon Birch bark, and Black Walnut husks.
Signpost sweeps a cold, grey parking lot,
never reaching dancing papers—
the final proof of purchase made by springtide Sun.
December 19, 2018
Copyright © 2019 Robert Milby Poetry - All Rights Reserved.