The National League of American Pen Women's Honolulu chapter has announced the winners of the 2008 Lorin Tarr Gill Writing Competition.
The biennial contest was open to all writers in categories of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The poetry winners are printed below.
» First place:
Paul Flentge, "Bombing Pearl Harbor"
» Second place: Kathleen J. Cassity, "Leaving Paradise"
» Third place: Susan Killeen, "Nothing More Than This"
» Honorable mention: Colleen Marie Murphy, "Somebody at Home"
» First place:
Kathleen J. Cassity, "Distances"
» Second place: Dawn Fraser Kawahara, "An Echo of Rodney Dangerfield: On Education and Respect"
» Third place: Michelle Cruz Skinner, "Translating"
By Jan McGrath, first place
Our grandmothers at tables
Oceans distant from each other
Stroked the edges of the tablecloth
The selfsame gesture slow repeated
Widows years from childbearing
All unaware that still their fingers sought
To soothe the father's anger, tribulations,
Colicked souls of sons, of daughters
Lost to restless alien worlds.
Smoothing, smoothing, knuckles
Now too gnarled to sew, crochet
To purl the pain away with mittens,
Buntings, afghans, comforters,
To pet the baby's fevered face,
Undo the snarls around our frantic fears
Smooth strokes to keep our world
So protect us that one day
We might come home to sit at table
With them, sip some tea and rock
And stroke the tablecloth.
By Kathleen J. Cassity, second place
(FOR MY FATHER)
Too white to stay, too dark to leave, you wander.
In misty green and gray, your face remains acceptably pasty.
Ill-fitting woolens, tartan ties and trench coats
Avoid the sun.
Respect the Queen
Don't forget those lessons in
Your speech is lovely. Musical, they say.
Just don't get too excited.
Shepherd's pie is edible if smeared
With plenty of Patak's hot mango pickles.
Extra hot, sears the tongue.
Care for a mint?
Even the taste of kidneys
Can be washed down with ale.
Pint of bitter, please!
And you are not so dark
that your origins cannot be obscured by an excellent accent.
Keep the chutney recipe secret.
Speak highly of Shakespeare.
In this climate memories freeze.
Your Tamil tongue burned away on ayah's funeral pyre.
Don't invite office mates to meet the family.
No civilized person eats dosa for breakfast.
Your children's tongues will burn with the firing of your secret recipe, branding them forever chee-chee, and proud.
Food is always the last to go.
* "Chee-chee" is a derogatory slang term used in India for the Anglo-Indian people of mixed British and Indian ethnicity.
By Christine Le, third place
I have worshiped other gods.
In banks and bars, in shopping malls,
at tables spread with tarot cards
and halls of half light, jasmine rising.
I have praised the spirits, called on
the dead, and watched as the
seeker's eyes rolled backwards
to give vision without sight.
What magic they had. What power
to lead me down their path,
to shroud my soul in darkest night,
no stars to guide.
But none of their tricks
Can compare to yours,
Offering your Son, before I had sinned.
Hearing my cries for help.
Then you raised me from the dead.
To stand like Lazarus,
grave clothes fallen
by the light of the cross.
Your love. Your grace.
I will worship only one God.
By Dawn Fraser Kawahara, honorable mention
In 30 years my mango tree will tower, fruit hanging high,
unreachable pink globes like Christmas balls or my young breasts,
and I will lie co-mingled with red earth
far -- so very far -- from India,
my land of birth where I first tasted mangos,
sucked sweet orange flesh
and played with families of "dolls" made from their seeds.
It may seem foolish or quite bold to plant a tree like mine
when you're a grandmother, graying and slowing down,
hoping to be, at the last, fine wine. But who would have known
this sprout from a Haden "Dom Perignon" of mangos' root
would bear a common fruit when finally
joy of joys! -- first harvest came.
My neighbors scoffed, said Cut it down, it's junk.
How could I, when there isn't time
to nurse another sapling to this stage -- besides,
I love its garland leaves, pink when new, then green, with bird nests
hidden, tucked between them. I'll keep what I've been given,
not complain. This tree will give me shade and shelter,
its trunk will gnarl and thicken to wide girth, and I will leave it grow
just as it will, thirsting for moisture and for light.
I shall suck the juice of its ripe fruit --
never a one shall I waste -- as I shall suck the juice
of what remains of the days of my ordinary life,
and overlook the pith.
The birds will sing and feast, a-flutter,
nest and fly, nest and fly ...
My mango tree will tower free and wild,
fruit hanging high, unreachable, in 30 years.
My ashes dug into its earthy roots.