Third Place in the 2012 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards

Jim Reese’s poem “Black Words on White Paper” has been chosen for Third Place in the 2012 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards sponsored by the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, New Jersey, home of the late poet Allen Ginsberg. Here is the poem:

Black Words on White Paper

I am grading freshman essays.
Too many of the papers about exhaustive
road trips without hitchhikers. Anorexia.
The death penalty. Abortions. One about the
Future Farmers of America. You don’t have to
grow up in the country to be a member.
I never knew that.

Most essays about families say they are dysfunctional.
They always are.
But sometimes it still scares me what students reveal.
Like when Carlos writes, That night,
when my father pointed his hunting rifle
at my head and said he was going to put a bullet between my eyes;
I knew I had to say something. That’s the first time I used my voice
to make a difference.

The phone rings and it’s Willow.
Dad, she says, her voice shaky and exhilarated.
Can I get my ears pierced?
At that moment, she could have asked for a pony
and I’d have probably given it to her.

How exciting it is to hear a child’s anticipation.
The delight, instead of