Rock River Poetry Contest selections

July 1, 1993

Rock River Poetry Contest selections

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This week, The Rock River Times presents the following selections submitted to the Rock River Poetry Contest.

Baking Cookies

To Greg, September 17, 2001

They call them Les Petits Blancs—

these mounds

of dough pressed into balls

pale as flesh,

lined in rows on baking sheets.

These are the Days of Awe, my Teshuvah.

I bake in reparation

for my late bearing,

which brings you to nineteen, a soldier’s age.

I shape this dough to alter a decree.

We listen to the news.

Jets plump with fuel transformed to missiles.

Gruesome rains of legal briefs,

a Chinese menu with burnt borders,

a foot, a desk, a resume.

It’s been six days,

still ash sifts gently down.

One batch has burned.

I scrape charred bottoms

with a small sharp knife

and think of verbs like smite and cleave.

There’s barely time to scour

and rinse the mixing bowl,

white and round as a skull,

and layer cookies in a tin

before you leave.

Five boys who would be engineers

are packing up the car

heading for Urbana

to learn trajectories, combustibles.

The old blue van

sags with guitars and laundry bags and physics texts.

And some new freight.

I send you off with cookies for lean years.

—Bonnie Kepplinger

Scientific Experiment

They wanted to find out about battered women, they said,

so they put dogs in cages with floors wired

so the dogs could be shocked if they wandered to the door.

Then they shocked the dogs randomly and gradually the dogs

learned to stay put even when the doors were open

and the shocks no longer came. See, they said, this is why

the battered woman stays with her beater. I write a letter.

Mr. Scientist: You don’t need to torture dogs to understand

battered women. Come to my shelter and talk to them or me.

You won’t get dollars to do this, so you probably won’t come.

But if you do, I will implement the plan I have prepared

especially for you. I look forward to seeing you.

—Carol Atkins

Rimbaud’s Bridges

Imagine this comedy

(can you dig it?):

A gray sky fragile

As grandmother’s crystal,

And rising up behind

The domes and rhomboids

And rectangles, pentangles,

Slashing obliquely, madly,

The bridges, spanning dubiously,

Scaling, circuiting the hovels,

The tenement roofs a lifetime past,

A Monkish off-minor chord repeated,

Epistrophically imagined,

As the remnants of the Public Orchestra

March out of tune,

Travelling out of time,

The tuba player clad in a red coat

From a long-forgotten war,

Toys scattered by a white flash

Down from the sky

Painted just this morning.

—J. G. Mark

After School

In the school’s white-ceramic tiled cafeteria

Bare-legged pom pon girls queue up

To rehearse their routines

For upcoming basketball game halftimes.

As their music whines raucously

From the tinny school phonograph,

The girls perspire after unison,

Kicking their toes out and up

And down step, point step, point,

Whirling and jiggling

Their arms, their heads, their torsos,

Up, down, around

To a dancing beat.

At peripheries, just across boundaries of their inhibitions,

Sophomore wrestlers loiter,

Peppering empty soda cans

In fade-away shots

Into a large white trash barrel.

Intermittently they jeer and swoon,

Mostly gaze in bemused wonderment.

Inside their taut puberty-burdened bodies

Carbonated juices profusely effervesce

Into limitless-seeming energy.

Outside, the thick gray sky drizzles on cars,

Parking lot blacktop, telephone wires,

Glazing surfaces with glassy indifference.

Up since five o’clock this morning,

Studying, writing, teaching equivocally,

Hanging on, he ponders the notion

To bicycle home his aging, aching body,

Pleasantly enervated from straining through a full-day’s toil

A sullen November afternoon day before Thanksgiving.

—Ron Rehfeldt

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