In the first half of 2006 The Ontario Poetry Society1 (TOPS) ran the "Winsome Words" contest. Entries placing first through tenth in each category were published in the "Winsome Words" chapbook produced by TOPS. Entry fees for the contest were quite modest2, as were the cash prizes offered for first through third place in each category.

Although not a member of TOPS, I proudly own one of the aforementioned chapbooks, having duly received it as a contest runner-up. Within its pale green covers lies my free verse poem, boldly displaying itself on the sinister side of the centerfold3. The chapbook actually holds 22 poems in total, as in addition to the contest winners, it includes one poem by each of the two contest judges4.

Poems submitted to the contest were subject to specific rules of composition and could be entered in either of the Rhyme or Free Verse categories. The contest's rules, at their essence, were these:

Seems simple, yes? Well, linoleum in particular was a bit of a stickler. Indeed, Winsome Words' closing poem, by Rhyme judge Gary E. Miller, is entitled "Linoleumania" and is an amusing ode to the troubles caused to aspiring poets by that word. Amusing to anyone who competed in this contest, anyway!

I'm toying with using these same rules for an e2 poetry contest, with a different word list of course. Monkeys and soy are a given for such a list. Suggestions for other words (or expressions of horror at the very idea) are welcome.

But I'm stalling. My purpose here is to publish my submission to the contest here on e2. I do this with no small amount of trepidation. Everything2's treatment of both poems and poets has been uneven at best over the years. I have excused myself from past debates on the merits of poetic efforts by claiming ignorance. My knowledge of poetic theory and concepts is perilously close to nil. My knowledge of the classics runs to The Cremation of Sam McGee and There once was a man from Nantucket as much as to the works of Blake and Chaucer. But now that I'm admitting to being a 'published' poet5 that dog won't hunt any more.

I have been dithering for a few weeks, since I got the chapbook. I was unsure if I'd post the poem here, but rootbeer277's September 16, 2006 has convinced me to do so. rb challenges us to "take chances" and to node outside our comfort zone in order to take advantage of e2's feedback mechanisms and thus to improve our writing. Few things are more uncomfortable for me than poetry, so without further stalling, I give you For a Wounded Land.

P.S. After hard work in the Google mines, I was able to unearth one other winning entry online, Linda Lee Crosfield's "Stones For The Fire Pit" (published as Stones For A Fire Pit in Winsome Words). It can be found on her Purple Mountain Poetry6 web site. Those wishing to see yet more examples of classic "Man versus Linoleum" conflict can order the Winsome Words chapbook directly from The Ontario Poetry Society.

  1. Ontario, Canada.
  2. 1 Poem for $3 CDN, additional poems $1 CDN each.
  3. "sinister side of the centerfold" &mdash Now, that's poetry. Or perhaps simply alliteration. No matter, I know what I like.
  4. Free Verse was judged by April Bulmer (web site), Rhyme judged by Gary E. Miller
  5. Me, For a Wounded Land Winsome Words. The Ontario Poetry Society. Thornhill, ON: Beret Days Press, 2006.
  6. Purple Mountain Poetry web site
Incidentally, it's my birthday today.

The bus driver
I got yelled at by a bus driver today. And it wasn't some gnarled old city bus driver who's been doing the same route for 50 years and can read a newspaper on the steering wheel because he doesn't even have to look where he's going anymore, his arms just keep making the turns automatically. I got yelled at by a lunch lady type who was driving a full-length yellow school bus. Look:

I was driving the kids to school this morning and I stopped at a crosswalk. It's one of those crosswalks where they've installed red/yellow/green signal lights. It was red, I was stopped.

When the light turned green, before I could even move my foot from brake to gas, the bus behind me honked. I wasn't asleep or anything, I was watching the light and that "hurry up" honk was uncalled for.

So I rolled forward to the school driveway at about 5km/h, hopefully to the annoyance of the bus driver behind me. It was only about 50' and then I turned into the driveway and gave the bus driver the finger as she drove past me on the left.

I would have stuck out my tongue instead, but I had to look where I was going, which required my face to be pointing away from the bus. I realise that the finger was a bit harsh in this situation, but it was my only option. I'm trying to say that I didn't mean "fuck you" when I gave her the finger, it was more like "ah, bite me you horn-quick-draw" driver. There was no anger behind my finger.

Anyhow, I pulled into the school parking lot and as I was letting the kids out of the car I heard a tap on my driver side window. I looked over and saw a face looking into my car and saying "What was that for!?".

Had there not been glass between us, this would have been a major personal space violation. People always do that when they talk through glass. They get closer than they normally would and you can see all the pores in their nose and the veins in their eyes. People are gross up close. I could have bit her nose if it wasn't for the glass.

"What was that for!?" came again and then I realised, seeing the bus parked on the street behind her, that this must be the driver. I uttered the universal response of a person playing for time in order to think: "What?"

She said "What was that for!?". It was getting old now and she could tell. She hadn't thought about what she'd say once she'd reached my car, she was just reacting, like me with my finger. So she continued with this: "I wasn't honking at you! I saw my daughter! I didn't honk at you!"

I smiled. I understood the misunderstanding now. I opened my door so I could respond, since my car doesn't like being yelled through. The bus driver backed up.

I think I was pretty cordial in my response: "Oh, I thought you honked at me! I see, well, I apologise then. My fault!" You see, I'm only 6/10ths asshole and I apologise when I'm wrong.

She continued to back away. It seemed like she still wasn't thinking and just continued to react because she said, again, "What was that for?". I could sense that she knew she was just babbling the same thing again. Next she said "I don't need to get the finger in the morning! I don't need that!"

My eighth grade sense of humour chuckled at that. You see, the remaining 4/10ths of me is still a 13-year-old.

I opened my door a bit more and started to explain again that I thought she'd honked at me, but I think the huge smile on my face and the fact that I seemed to be getting out of my car put her off. She continued to back up, in a parking lot, without looking where she was going.

I don't think she expected me to open my door and apologise. And I was smiling. It was a funny situation. And on TV the crazy people always smile and apologise just before they grab your head and eat your face. And since most people actually believe, at least subconsciously, that what they see on TV is real, the bus driver decided it was time to leave.

She turned and walked back towards her bus. I thought we could both have a bit of a laugh at the miscommunication, but apparently she didn't get it. I laughed a bit for both of us.

As she walked away, lacking anything else to say, I called out "Bye!". She stopped, turned, and made a sort of exasperated gesture by wringing her hands near the sides of her head. She called back "Ya, have a nice day!"

Thanks bus driver woman, I appreciate that. And if you're reading this, please understand that I really had no anger towards you and I think it's pretty good of you to get out of your car (or bus, in this case) and stand up for yourself. Most people wouldn't. Most people just go through their day like robots, doing their job and never deviating from their routine. Thanks for breaking up my day and reminding me that other people are people too. And since I did the same for you, by giving you a reason to get out of your bus, you're welcome too.

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