Another round of our annual LEO Literary Contest is underway, and we’re once again blown away by all the talent floating around in our community. We picked a 1st to 3rd place for each category – short fiction, poetry, color photography, black and white photography and cartoons – and various honorable mentions throughout, but it wasn’t easy.
This year’s poetry submissions were wide and ranged from broken hearts to burning hearts. There was love, rage and political outrage. The winning pieces showed skill in construction and content and in many ways spoke directly to the times we live in and the quiet life behind closed doors. It is heartening to see that year after year poets of all skill levels submit to Literary LEO and each year it seems more and more difficult to choose a winner when all the artistic creations have value. Even if your poem is not here in this little space given to us to share, keep submitting and keep writing.
Either way, here are the poetry winners. We hope you enjoy.
hair of god
By William Tucker
In the beginning,
God had a mule.
He deceived all the other gods
by being business at the front
and party in the back
end of the universe
where was the earth
a hanging blue crystal ball
of his rear view mirror.
The other gods bored him
with their bluster and their brimstone,
so he pulled him out of there,
in a corner of his own.
He sat alone in the void
in the glow of the dashboard light
and decided to populate a world
to make him feel less alone.
After planting trees
and model clay one day
He grabbed scissors
and cut and shaped until
He had a nice pompadour.
He used engine grease
to smooth it back.
And so He became an advertiser,
trying to sell humanity on its mark.
But after the
It was time to change.
The smooth style man
had turned into a scab.
So he went for a crew cut,
just as her son was born.
Easy care, a god warrior
It struck fear into the hearts of men.
tapered so much
tell the truth
even more difficult to take.
And when he got tired of listening
to prayers and supplications,
He could be found in the garage,
and working on his ’57 Chevy.
A candy apple red beauty that Jesus never drove.
33 years later,
Daddy, get me off this thing,
Just like God looked in the mirror
and saw that her hair had fallen out
in a combover.
The perfect wave of salt and pepper
hide his age.
Here her son was dying,
and he couldn’t help but think
of all the changes
since that mule a long time ago.
As the ages passed,
He kept tearing his hair out,
of all the stupid things
we did on earth,
how it seemed that we don’t care
for heavenly things.
We were all too busy to notice
God in the corner,
bald and furious,
hide the glare
from his head.
run the engine
of that favorite Chevy
To the earth,
Ready to erase his biggest mistake.
House Without a House
By Todd Walker
The fan mimicked the wind in its artificial environment. The barren ceiling, the two-tone walls (without bars in sight, not in mind). The shadows find no pleasure and come no more. I find no real joy beyond photos and memories. Purgatory of the heart. Solitary of the soul. Glowing embers for a twist.
I saw a father play catch with his son – no screaming, disgust or awkwardness. I felt sad and angry. My head grew heavy and I left. I fear the hereditary line of fatherhood and become a cliff towards it. Empty and vain my heirs.
I believe Shakespeare said it simply with “to be”…otherwise nothing else would matter. Patrick Henry called it “freedom”. Curiously, Mary Oliver wondered aloud, calling her “wild and precious.” I saw it go up in smoke like boiling water spilled on a Tennessee Williams sidewalk on a thick August noon. And drank to oblivion. A fool and his time waste much more than a fool and his money.
Changing reasons never held back the tide. And my left hand always puts the ice in the glass. So goes the drunken boat against the reef. So goes a solitary man through life. Achievements in liters and a legacy of questions.
By Jordan Hancock
Where is God’s place in this millennium?
Is he still in the sky looking down
On the chaos he created,
Or is it in each of us?
I hear a confident voice speaking now,
Projecting to the back bench.
I’m pretty sure it’s all in my head,
But I could tell you his words.
If I wrote you a Bible,
Would you say that’s heresy?
Would you still believe in God
If He chose to speak through me?
I sell the keys that unlock the padlocks,
My mother raised me as a prophet.
I stand high on a soapbox,
And I refuse to come down.
I preach from a pulpit,
There really is no difference,
Shout out the bullshit of orthodoxy;
Goodwill is our deliverance.
Can you dig it,
Can you dig?
Practice is the shovel
It makes our numbers go up,
Redeem our souls,
sends us our receipts,
free us from our chains,
And buries our beliefs;
Can you dig it,
Can you dig it,
On executive dysfunction
By Kat Gillespie
I call it making a dent:
two stack boxes
go down the stairs in
the recycling bin for once
there is something comforting
in pathological fear
when someone asks for worse than
it can happen you already know that
and will still know
as cardboard stacks the corner
in a mocking and sly tumble
and change, I imagined each
day something worse
clenched dirty teeth
And I hope I’ll rot before he’s gone
I hope to fall and find my bones
before drying in the cracks
between the tiles and the baseboards
and dive into the static course through my brain
in my skull on my shoulders on my body in the corner of the bathroom dripping and watching the soap get thick and sticky right in front of me but even though that rag is in my hand believe me i swear i’m somewhere else and nothing can be done today
tell me how to rub
a floor like this dirty
under everything i let fall crumbled
under the weight of so let me know
which youtube hack scratches the best
release those persistent
Our crazy march
By Kylee Hoelscher
We have traveled thirty-nine point three miles,
a bloated, sometimes disconcerting walk
And all the while your hitchhiker
settled in, you ungrateful guest.
We drank strawberry yogurt from Yoplait lids,
each adding a meager coin to the pot,
our miser’s purse strings are too tight
research on flaccid penises and wrinkled jowls.
I Read This Steamy Bestseller Aloud While Healing
poison flowed from the tube into the arms
of you and of others: the proud, the rare,
the hollow-breasted champions of the cause.
We cut our hair together, but you alone cut
on your chest, the pillow swells we longed for at thirteen
which had provided pleasure along with food,
now looks like an annotated treasure map.
We smoked weed in your living room,
absolved from fear of the prying eyes of mothers;
bet on the chronology of a cure
if men cut off dicks at the rate of one in four.
You had courage and grace, they said
in these last morphine-filled days,
these cretins, seekers of meaning, addicted to
that we couldn’t get rid of in the end.
Yesterday I sat with your girls
and I wondered what legacy you left them,
your film noir smile and Jennifer Aniston hair
or your only fatal flaw.
When you’re old (V)
By Robert L. Penick
You start to sew the wings
back to the butterflies,
those who did not crawl
so far in the past
that pollen grains are
their only proof.
You find the survivors
in forgotten places:
On a talk tape
or on a city bus
passing through a downpour.
Think of that first girlfriend,
the fat kid in high school
or another victim
along your distorted, staggered
freaking out through the years.
Thread the needle. Prick the thumb. To fix.
Your work is neat, calm,
a restoration of
flight, grace and symmetry.
Your hands are not nimble
but you try to fix
every leaf you tore.
Plywood Meth Head Jesus
By Robert L. Penick
Plywood Jesus always prays
in the front yard next door
the Live and Learn thrift store.
The Virgin Mary next to him
seems reconciled with everything
the world throws at him,
whatever the vicissitudes
to be served as a main course
from the bloody banquet of life.
Jesus, on the other hand,
is serious, aware and worried.
The grain of the wood makes it
seems like his face has burst.
Stress will do this, as well as
an unhealthy diet.
Maybe one day it will come out
of this court, quit this habit
or lay off fatty foods.
He had a difficult life and
deserves quality time.
Jesus Christ, give yourself a break.
Mona Lisa walks the fine line
By Todd Walker
For what our eyes and ears seek for pleasure; for what our hands consciously admire; for what our deepest desire cries out for in our simplest thoughts – it is our soul that must be touched to feel true joy.
The air was still and everything went silent as she passed by my shoulder. It was as if she had left the canvas and breathed again. Mine. Whispers struck my mind like the brush strokes of the great painter.
Beauty is never still, she never sleeps and when caught she never dies – forever she is that moment.
I was too drunk to enjoy my drink more than usual. My heart was screaming, while my eyes were pushing it. My smile, too proud for words to escape. I didn’t have the right mind or sense of myself to attempt a bridge. His hand tossed her hair back in waves towards the beach – falling and returning slightly. Magnificent in its simplicity.
The pictures say so much and reveal so little truth. The paintings show a life and all its secrets – hidden and missing. In the moment – irreplaceable.
Time and place seem so incompatible that I let a moment end. No, “Excuse me…”, “Do you have the year? », « You validate the parking? Just sighs and the like. Always the same.
But better to walk by my window than never to take a step.
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