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Links to Award-Winning Poems

"Give Me Tomorrow" by Ginny Lowe Connors, Honorable Mention in the 2002 War Poetry Contest

Featured Poem:
"Skull Trees, South Sudan"

Featured Poem:
"Why Does Sorrow Come To My Kitchen?"

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"Bad Fry" by Kevin Wohler, Honorable Mention in the 2003 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

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Award-Winning Poems: Spring 2008

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Welcome to our Spring 2008 selection of award-winning poems. These quarterly specials are included with your free Winning Writers Newsletter subscription. We'll release our next regular newsletter on March 15.

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Congratulations to Adrie Kusserow. Her poem "Skull Trees, South Sudan" was selected for inclusion in The Best American Poetry 2008, a prestigious anthology series edited by David Lehman. The poem originally appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of The Kenyon Review. She kindly shares it with us below.

Congratulations to Sheila Gee. Her poem "Why Does Sorrow Come To My Kitchen?" won first prize in the 10th Mattia Family International Poetry Competition. She kindly shares her poem with us below. The next deadline for this contest, which offers prizes up to C$200, is June 15.

Congratulations to Joan Gelfand. Her poem "Anthology Sonnet" won first prize in the Humor/Light Verse category at the 81st Annual Poets Dinner in Oakland, California. She was given a cash prize and invited to read at the Ina Coolbrith reading circle.

Congratulations to Carol Gilbertson. She won the 2006 Flyway Sweet Corn Prize of $150 for her poem "Hercules", which appeared in the journal's Spring/Summer 2007 issue. She kindly shares her poem with us below. Flyway, published by Iowa State University, has discontinued this contest, but offers other writing contests during the year.

Joan Gelfand will be the featured poet for the Spring 2008 issue of She will also be Poetica magazine's June 2008 "Poet of the Month". In addition, her poem "Cupid" was included in the recent PEN/Oakland Anthology, Oakland Out Loud, which was published in December, and her poem "War Rant" appeared in the January 2008 issue of Kalliope: A Journal of Women's Literature & Art.

Darla Himeles has four poems featured on, an interactive webzine that encourages readers to rate and comment on the poems published in the journal.

Closing This Month
Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31
Now in its 16th year. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and five Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. Submit any type of short story, essay or other work of prose, up to 5,000 words. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. $12 entry fee. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. Winning Writers is assisting with entry handling for this contest. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Closing Next Month
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Online Submission Deadline: April 1
Winning Writers invites you to enter the seventh annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest, called "infamous" by Writer's Digest. Fifteen cash prizes totaling $3,336.40 will be awarded, including a top prize of $1,359. There is no fee to enter. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

War Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31
We seek 1-3 original, unpublished poems on the theme of war for our seventh annual contest, up to 500 lines in total. We will again award $5,000, including a top prize of $2,000. Submit online or by mail. The entry fee is $15. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Postmark Deadline: June 30
Now in its fifth year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Fourteen cash prizes totaling $5,250 will be awarded, including a top prize of $2,000. The entry fee is $6 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: September 30
Now in its sixth year, this contest seeks poems in any style, theme or genre. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Fourteen cash prizes totaling $5,250 will be awarded, including a top prize of $2,000. The entry fee is $6 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

If you enjoy using The Best Free Poetry Contests, consider upgrading to Poetry Contest Insider. The Best Free Poetry Contests profiles the 150 or so poetry contests that are free to enter. With your Poetry Contest Insider subscription, you'll get access to all of our 750+ poetry contest profiles, plus over 100 of the best prose contests. Search and sort contests by deadline, prize, fee, recommendation level and more. Access to Poetry Contest Insider is just $7.95 per quarter, with a free 10-day trial at the start. Cancel at any time.

Most contests charge entry fees. You can easily spend hundreds of dollars and many hours entering these contests each year. Don't waste your time or money. Out of hundreds of contests, there might only be two or three dozen that are especially appropriate for your work. We help you find them fast. Interviews and links to award-winning work help you refine your craft. Learn more about Poetry Contest Insider.



by Deborah Bernhardt
Winner of the 2004 Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry
Postmark Deadline: March 31
This prestigious first-book contest for poetry manuscripts, with a $1,000 prize, is offered in even-numbered years only. Excerpted from Bernhardt's prizewinning Echolalia, this elliptical poem puzzles over the permutations of a fraught word, in fragmented images suggesting that the roots of the deed, as opposed to the word, must remain a mystery.

by Marianne Burton
Winner of the 2006 Mslexia Poetry Competition
Entries must be received by April 25
Mslexia, a British journal for women writers, offers prizes up to 1,000 pounds for unpublished poems by women. Overseas entries may be sent online. Burton's compassionate character sketch ends with a hard truth about the persistence of childhood shame.

by Nancy Krygowski
Winner of the 2006 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: April 30
The University of Pittsburgh Press offers $5,000 and publication for a first collection of poems. This title poem from Krygowski's prizewinning book uses taut, factual narration to hold a traumatic event at arm's length and express the narrator's will to survive.

We are gathering a growing library of award-winning poems in Poetry Contest Insider, over 90 to date. Enjoy a wide range of today's best work. Sign up for a free trial.





by Ginny Lowe Connors

"They were in their 20s but might have been 100. In answer to my idiot question, 'If I were God, what would you want for Christmas,' one tried to answer and failed until, looking into that unpromising sky, he said, 'Give me tomorrow.'" — David Douglas Duncan, about American soldiers in the Korean War.

Their documents insist: eighteen,
twenty, twenty-four.
But soldiers are ageless.
Once introduced to death, they drop
their ages like quarters
into parking meters, into streets,
into machines that tumble clothes,
rinsing evidence away.

Dirt smudges their faces
the way blood soaks into the ground
and remains, a darker dirt
glistening in the pale light of moon.
Their eyes burn
with a bright darkness,
collapsed stars
in the voids of their faces.

Sometimes they hear nothing
but a single high, keening note
which tries to drown out memory.
When they hear screaming,
they clamp their lips shut.
They try to become stones.

Like fireworks, fear blossoms
so often they hardly notice
after the first deafening booms.
Smoke spiders crawl after them
into ditches, into dreams.

On orders, they go forward,
they retreat. They carry
letters folded over their hearts,
maps to an innocent country.

Although today
forced them to remember hell,
to recognize hell, to believe
in hell, the only thing they ask for
is tomorrow. The sky
promises nothing, yet they pray:
Give me tomorrow.

Copyright 2002 Ginny Lowe Connors

This poem won an Honorable Mention in the 2002 War Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers. See the judge's comments on the winning poems from this contest.



The Shorter Decameron
by Larry Lyall
On sale now at The Shorter Decameron
when I pray Lord please let Thy will be done
not only here but for eternity
& find that what He wills is such good fun
I'm certain heaven's for the likes of me
(VII, iii)
Boccaccio's refreshing wit recast as Petrarchan sonnets. The Shorter Decameron is a handbook for Boccaccio's masterwork as well as a stand-alone, comedic romp in the spirit of the original. You'll enjoy a critical gloss, ample quotes from Boccaccio, and, of course, the gist of the tales themselves.
"Pays brilliant tribute to the revelatory and transformative power of poetry, story, and intellectual exchange."
—Marilyn Migiel, author of A Rhetoric of the Decameron
Excerpt from The Shorter Decameron

what say we link as verbs—copulatives
& how we link best pars'd grammatically?
how is it then our grammar cracks on these
whose idiom is most degenerative?
teach me declension: show me how to live
as one who suffers what 'they' damn well please
we're nothing more than prey to all their sleaze
mere batter'd pronouns—no grand adjectives

how conjugate myself in such a way
my lexicon omits both we & I?
why only he & she & them & they
whose lustful riot bruises cheek & thigh?

they sate themselves secure (I'm loath to say)
since you (false patience) hang us out to dry

(TSD I, ix)

Blood to Remember: American Poets on the HolocaustBlood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust
The second revised edition of Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, edited by Charles Adés Fishman, is an important book. Important because of the voices it contains, their testimonies, the memories they enshrine, and their "laying bare", as it were, of the most sordid, soiled laundry of man's recent past. At times it seems our noses are being rubbed in the vilest filth, and indeed at times they are. But here we also see the redemption of man: the cleansings and transformations of seemingly threadbare human cloth into the white robes of righteousness, through the ameliorations of human tenderness, compassion and love.

Here the living speak for the dead, and therefore the dead cannot be forgotten. One day these living voices will themselves become memories; some have. But they will be immortal memories now, thanks in large part to Fishman, who must be applauded for the many grueling hours he undoubtedly invested in a book of this size (637 pages), intensity and scope.

The poets include Ciardi, Hecht, Kumin, Levertov, Levine and Walcott. But the poets' names are meaningless, except perhaps as they help sales. It's the voices that matter: the lives and memories they eternalize, the issues they raise, confront and refuse to stow away in handy cubbyholes. A bureaucrat or librarian might file all Holocaust victims under a single generic heading: "Victim, Deceased, Increasingly Forgotten, Soon To Be Unknown." But not these poets. Their method is to keep the living alive with words that refuse to die.

One quick example: in "A Story about Chicken Soup", Louis Simpson captures the evil and absurdity of war, while not allowing readers easy stereotypes or conclusions:
In the ruins of Berchtesgaden
A child with yellow hair
Ran out of a doorway.

A German girl-child—
Cuckoo, all skin and bones—
Not even enough to make chicken soup.
She sat by the stream and smiled.

Then as we splashed in the sun
She laughed at us.
We had killed her mechanical brothers,
So we forgave her ...
Simpson's mechanical soldier sees a leader, swallows a party line, clicks his bootheels, then goes off, robot-like, to kill and die. The poets of Blood to Remember question, doubt, agonize, and try to understand what it means to live in a world suffused with death.

—Michael R. Burch

Order Blood to Remember here.

Lucidity Poetry JournalLucidity Poetry Journal
Lucidity Poetry Journal, now in its 23nd year of publication, is seeking poems dealing with all the facets of human experience such as life, love, loss, joy, sorrow, hope, disappointment—all those elements faced by people in human relationships and daily events. We want poems that are lucid and clear in diction and deal with everyday issues, avoiding vulgarities and jabberwocky. We also avoid political and religious verse, as well as purely nature poems: such as butterflies, sunsets, birds, etc. We are open to any format: formal or free verse but it is important to read our guidelines before submitting poetry. We do not consider email submissions.

If your work is accepted for publication, you will receive modest payment (from $1 to $15), plus a free copy of that issue. We do charge a small entry/reading fee to pay the publication and postage expenses of our journal. Please email us for submission details or visit our website: (the 00 are zeros). In addition to our twice-yearly journal, we also publish chapbooks for poets at a reasonable cost if you wish to have your poems in a book. Contact us for details and prices.

Response has been excellent to a new concept in publishing that we have developed which we call a Mini-Chapbook, featuring a 12-page booklet containing 8 of your poems with an attractive cover showing title, your name and illustration. These booklets are great for mailing or giveaways, and are far cheaper than a greeting card. Send $1 for a sample of the Mini-Chapbook. It's an easy way to get your poems in print in a professional venue.

In April we shall sponsor the 16th annual Lucidity Ozark Poetry Retreat at Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This 3-day event features lectures, critiquing groups, read-arounds and fellowship with poets from across the country. We have booked 30 rooms for the 2008 gathering. Registration fee for all 3 days is only $35. For details, please write to Lucidity Poetry Journal, Ted Badger–Editor, 14781 Memorial Drive, No. 10, Houston, TX 77079-5210, USA, or email

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Attention Student Writers:
Deadline This Month!
The Ayn Rand Institute is accepting essays from high school and college students on Ayn Rand's novels. $81,250 awarded in prize money to 521 students! Each contest is free to enter.

Contests Essays will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic and psychological meaning of the novel in question.

For complete rules, guidelines, and topic questions, please visit:
Free Gifts to Teachers Who Submit Classroom Assigned Essays!
Many teachers use Anthem or The Fountainhead in their classroom and assign our essay contest topics to their students. If you are planning to require your students to enter one of our contests, or if you know that a number of your students will enter one of the contests, we encourage you to collect their essays and send them to us in one package. As a thank-you from Ayn Rand Institute, teachers who submit at least 5 essays will receive their choice of a variety of prizes. Prize options increase, the more essays submitted. See details and request contest flyers.

Also available, lesson plans and study guides for Anthem and The Fountainhead. Teachers who plan to teach Anthem, The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged in their classrooms over the next year may request free copies of these novels.

Closing Next Month
Toward The Light Toward The Light Sixth Annual Poetry Contest
Entries must be received by April 1
First Prize: Can$175 plus publication in the Summer 2008 issue and 2 copies
Two Honourable Mentions: Can$50 plus publication in the Summer 2008 issue and 2 copies

Entry Fee: Can$12 for a set of 1-3 poems or Can$28 if you'd also like to receive a year's subscription to Toward The Light. Add Can$5 for each additional poem over 3. For the convenience of our international contestants and others, you have the option of paying your fee online with PayPal or a credit card.

Theme: Toward The Light. Send us poetry that sees in the dark. Personal poetry that integrates the power of light and dark in life, recognizing that neither is a permanent resting place, rather, together they stimulate movement and growth; never a final location. Wherever you are, ignite the fuse of light within you. Notice how darkness can make you wise. In celebration, struggle, joy, depression, transition, and achievement there is light and dark. Write that. We are not looking for rants or lists of profanity; we are looking for a sincere, multifaceted exploration of what it means to choose to grow toward the light. See an excerpt from the 2007 winning poem, "For Christ's sake, would you hurry and take the picture".

Contest sponsored by Toward The Light: Journal of Reflective Word & Image. See the complete guidelines at The winners will be announced in June.

Skysaje Enterprises
Closing Next Month
Announcing the Fourth Annual Skysaje Enterprises Poetry Contest
Entries must be received by April 30
This year we've increased the top prize to $250 and we're offering three $25 Honorable Mentions. Please format your submissions using 12-point type. We prefer the Times New Roman, Courier and Arial typefaces. Entry fee: $15. Submit up to 5 poems per entry. All styles accepted! Both published and unpublished work welcome, and your poems may be of any length. Enter as often as you like. Make your entry fee payable to L. Berger and mail to:
Skysaje Enterprises
50 Amesbury Road
Rochester, NY 14623-5314

The 2006 winner was Arthur "Old Gold" Aoereste of Rochester, New York. Please enjoy his poem:

by Arthur Aoereste

There you are calling to me
from across the room
seductive in your see through garment
your body soft long and golden.

you are calling to me
like the sirens of the sea
"come, enjoy all that awaits you."
But I am strong. I can wait a little longer.
Or can i?
Suddenly the animal within me is released and I find myself ripping away the thin clothes feeling your soft warmth in my hands, then in my mouth.

In my mind
I see you slowly pushing your rich white cream sweet and thick onto my tongue where i hold it as long as i can then slowly let it slide down my throat.
There's no room in my life for any other.
together we are like the sand and the sea the stars and the sky!

I love you Twinky(tm)
together we will live together we will die!

Copyright 2006 Arthur Aoereste

Dancing Poetry Festival Artists Embassy International Poetry Contest - 43 Cash Awards
To further understanding and goodwill through the universal language of the arts

Postmark Deadline: May 15
43 Poetry Contest winners will be honored at the 15th Annual Dancing Poetry Festival in September 2008. The authors will be invited to read at our prestigious podium in the elegant California Palace of the Legion of Honor Art Museum. Over $1,000 will be awarded, and all winners receive free entry into our festival plus a printed award certificate. The top three poems chosen as Grand Prizes will be choreographed, costumed and videotaped live in an on-stage performance at the Festival.

Recent topics of winning poems have touched on the travels of Matisse, a Picasso painting, falling leaves, love, Iraq, China, history, dance, current events, reverie, socially significant situations and even some humor sprinkled here and there. Please don't feel constrained to write a poem about dancing.

Dancing Poetry Contest The entry fee is $5 per poem or $10 for 3 poems. Each poem may be up to 40 lines long. Send two copies of each poem. One copy should be anonymous (just title and poem), the other should have your name, address, phone, email address and where you heard about this contest (e.g. Winning Writers Newsletter).

When the judges evaluate entries, they look for innovative perspectives on ordinary or unusual subjects as well as excellence of craft. Your entry should be suitable for a general audience since our following is comprised of people of all ages and ethnicities. English translations must be included with non-English poems.

Our judges consist of poets, dancers, musicians and visual artists of various media, all members of Artists Embassy International. Judging is done with the anonymous copies of the poems. Artists Embassy International is a non-profit, volunteer, arts and education organization whose goal is to further intercultural understanding through the arts.

Dancing Poetry ContestThree poets, the Grand Prize winners, will be rewarded with seeing their poems danced by Natica Angilly’s Poetic Dance Theater Company, a well-known dance troupe that has performed around the world and throughout America. This company is dedicated exclusively to creating new avenues by combining poetry, dance and music together for presentation and the expansion of poetry with dance in the life of our culture.

To enter the contest, please visit our website at or submit to our Dancing Poetry Chair, Judy Cheung, 704 Brigham Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Questions? Please email Ms. Cheung at

Rome Art and Community Center Now Open
Annual Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize
Postmark Deadline: August 1
The Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize is sponsored by Rome Art & Community Center of Rome, New York. FIRST PRIZE $300, SECOND $150, THIRD $100, plus honorable mentions. Entries accepted from all over the US and the world. Judge to be announced. Entries must be original poetry, unpublished at time of submission. Guidelines must be followed or entry will be void. Entries must be typed on 8.5" x 11" paper. Author's name, address, and telephone number must appear on the BACK of each entry. Entry fee of $10 per poem, US funds. Checks or money orders accepted. Entries may also be submitted via email with a credit card payment over the phone—call 315-336-1040 for more info.

Contest open to the general public, excluding RACC employees. Winners will be notified by telephone. Winning entries will be published and read during the annual awards ceremony at RACC. More info can be found at Make your entry fees payable to Rome Art & Community Center and mail your entries to: Rome Art & Community Center, c/o Dorfman Poetry Prize, 308 West Bloomfield Street, Rome, NY 13440.



Skull Trees, South Sudan
by Adrie Kusserow

Arok, hiding from the Arabs in the branches of a tree,
two weeks surviving on leaves,
legs numb, mouth dry.
When the mosquitoes swarmed
and the bodies settled limp as petals under the trees,
he shinnied down, scooping out a mud pit with his hands
sliding into it like a snake,
his whole body covered except his mouth.
Perhaps others were near him,
lying in gloves of mud, sucking bits of air through the swamp holes,
mosquitoes biting their lips,
but he dared not look.

What did he know of the rest of South Sudan, pockmarked with bombs,
skull trees with their necklaces of bones,
packs of bony Lost Boys
roving like hyenas towards Ethiopia,
tongues, big as toads, swelling in their mouths,

the sky pouring its relentless bombs of fire. Of course they were
tempted to lie down for a moment,

under the lone tree, with its barely shade,
to rest just a little while before moving on,

the days passing slyly, hallucinations
floating like kites above them

until the blanched bones lay scattered in a ring around the tree,
tiny ribs, skulls, hip bones—a tea set overturned,
as the hot winds whistled through them
as they would anything, really,

and the sky, finally exhausted,
moving on.

Copyright 2008 by Adrie Kusserow

This poem was published in the Fall 2007 issue of The Kenyon Review and will appear in The Best American Poetry 2008 anthology edited by David Lehman.


Why Does Sorrow Come To My Kitchen?
by Sheila Gee

Why does sorrow come to my kitchen?
Death pervade the potatoes,
climb in with the chips
Doesn't it know its place?

There's a place to mourn,
my kitchen isn't it,
too clinical, too many knives
My kitchen's a sanctuary
for shepherd's pie,
apple crumble and wine.

It's not a place to howl
for lost friends or to finger
peas like prayer beads
nor season meals
with extra salt.

Bad news should wait at the gate,
so I can dress for it.

Copyright 2008 by Sheila Gee

This poem won first prize in the 10th Mattia Family International Poetry Competition.


by Carol Gilbertson

We landed in Athens after midnight,
the children with us. If you hadn't brought us,
we'd never have come. It was Easter.
My father was dead. We were exhausted,
and the cab driver had a mind of his own.

In the morning the Parthenon sang
white above us. Lambs roasted on small spits
in the courtyard. I bought a round loaf
with a crimson egg in the center
for Ellen's seventh birthday.
She told us she was keeping a journal.

What made it all so holy? Candles
in the plaka, the calls to prayer,
grottoes at the roadside with flowers,
the man who offered us bread.

At Mycenae Ellen struggled to print
"Klytaemnestra" and then gave up,
though she loved the story's bloody bath.

The girls made sandcakes on the beach.
You peeled ripe oranges
and handed us sections one-by-one.
My father was gone.

You told them Hercules stories
and one night, as you tucked them in,
I heard Ellen's sleepy voice:
"I can remember ten of the labors,
but I can't think of the other two."

Each day falls into the dustbin
of the past. Do we remember, I wonder,
what we are, what we've made—
do we remember
the little labors of our life?

Copyright 2008 by Carol Gilbertson

This poem won the 2006 Flyway Sweet Corn Prize.



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Advertise to 20,000 Poets and Writers
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Peter Buttross, Natchez Poetry Contest

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Save the Date — ProLiteracy Worldwide Annual Conference, October 1-4, 2008
ProLiteracy Worldwide Annual Conference
The 2008 ProLiteracy Worldwide Annual Conference will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas during October 1-4. Presenters are invited to apply now through April 8. Nominations are requested for awards in student excellence, individual achievement, program innovation, outstanding tutor, and a special Literacy South Award for Innovation in Student Involvement. Nominations are due in June and July (see details).

Conference registration fees are $300 for ProLiteracy members and $375 for non-members. Adult literacy students may attend for $200. To learn more, please see the conference information pages.

Support ProLiteracy's vital mission. Click here to learn more. Click here to contribute.

Send this page to a friend and we'll donate 15 cents to ProLiteracy for each friend you refer.





by Kevin Wohler

What are you doing there
among the golden ones?
The spot on you is plain to see.
Nestling between the bright and tall,
does not hide the dark stain
that separates you from the others.
Bad fry! Bad fry!
You seek to make me ill,
to gag in disgust,
— at the very least,
to upset my repast of quick cuisine.
Begone! foul reminder
of my unwise lunch selection.
Harden my arteries,
oh harbingers of death,
but do not let the bad fry
tempt me with its salty goodness.

Copyright 2003 Kevin Wohler

Sent as a joke to, this poem received an honorable mention in the 2003 Wergle Flomp parody poetry contest sponsored by Winning Writers. See the judge's comments on winning poems from this contest.


Best Free Poetry Contests for March 16-April 30