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13th annual Littoral Press Poetry Prize

This year’s judge was Terry Lucas. The winning poem is “The Color of Rain” by Gordon Preston. Production of a limited edition broadside of this poem will begin shortly. There are three honorable mentions: “Ayaz Marhoni & Mahmoud Asgiri” by Craig Cotter; “At the Veterans Hospital” by Katharyn Howd Machan; and “Sacrifice by Fire” by Diane G. Woodcock. These poets will each receive a broadside of their choice from Littoral Press.

Many thanks to all who entered the contest. Next year’s deadline will be August 16th.


THE COLOR OF RAIN

This morning tiny horns of silver rain

sounded upon the dark part of our street,

where my heart lies under a tree shadow,

that once, like a theatre screen, draped

the avenue so that the houses could

continue to go on believing.

                                            The sun, brilliant,

rose like some coin in a history book, glowing

so unreachable that imagination was exhausted,

like a hot summer wind, not giving up, or going

home, invisible.

                            Years ago, a clear rain held you against

the white adobe of the Campanile our university thought

was so dear. And parading beneath the wet plum leaves,

I saw the silhouettes as they were, tiny umbrellas

shaking out

                     a crystal rain before entering that movie  

of black and white, where I found you, sitting there,

far left from center, deep long hair glistening richer  

than gold lace that tasseled the silk pleated

theatre curtain, rising, slow, and heavy.

— Gordon Preston


AYAZ MARHONI & MAHMOUD ASGIRI

The Iranian government

held a public execution

to murder gay lovers Mahmoud Asgiri, age 16

and Ayaz Marhoni, age 18.

They were arrested at 14 and 16, tortured 2 years

and forced to tape a confession that they were in love.

Handcuffed together

before their public execution

photographs show them crying

as a microphone is held in front of faces.

Instead of building gallows

that snap the neck instantly

they were hoisted slowly

nooses around their necks

and strangled to death over 20 minutes.

Mahmoud jerked so much

one of his sandals came off.

            —Publicly executed in Edalat (Justice) Square in Mashhad, northeast Iran, on July 19, 2005

— Craig Cotter


AT THE VETERANS HOSPITAL

In Aphrodite’s deep and fullest hue

I dance again the halls of Ares’ breath

and touch the shadows, celebrating who

instead of what within these walls of death.

My ankles offer golden bells that sing

of light and wonder, as my hands reach out

rich rhythm-echo of bright zills that ring

the names of Love, close whisper to far shout.

How is it War can use a man like stone

to crush another, smiling proud and bold,

then drop him cracked and breaking, left alone

to crumble into dust as he grows old?

Again I whirl, my hot pink veil held high

to every trembling smile, each waking eye.

— Katharyn Howd Machan


SACRIFICE BY FIRE

How could it be that in 1963

one Vietnamese monk,

Thich Quang Duc,

awakened the world

with the lighting of one match—

his body becoming black ash?

These days, five decades

later, how many will it take—166

Tibetans to date*—

to get our attention?  How many

strikes of how many matches against

the dark of isolation and oppression?

Already the threat—glaciers of Tibet                          

melting, its plateau warming three times

the global average, the Ganges swelling,

each humble heap of holy ashes

lifting up while the powerful keep right on

hardening like lumps in the throat.

*As of January 2020 — 156 in Tibet and China, and 10 in exile

https://www.savetibet.org/resources/fact-sheets/self-immolations-by-tibetans/



— Diane G. Woodcock



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