Nov 302010

NC judges are rarely photographed. In this instance, they appeared in disguise in order to conceal their identities. The man second from the right is obviously Gary Garvin.

The judges emerged briefly from their humid, smoke-filled grotto and handed over a smudged and much crossed-out and rewritten list of rondeaus. Across the top of the page, someone had written in pencil the word: FINALITS (sic). They offered a terse no comment to the international cadre of journalists, TV cameramen, and absinthe-sipping literary celebrities gathered for the announcement. Two of the judges escaped into the crowd and have not been seen since. The other three were rounded up by security guards and pushed back into the cave with much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Herewith, the list of finalists. As one has come to expect, the entries were witty, surprising, affecting and crafty, all at once and all of them. The finalists seemed ever so slightly, to the judges, to fly above the rest. Printed in a group like this, they are a delightful bunch of poems.

(The management wishes to thank all the entrants, especially the ones new to Numéro Cinq, many of whom no doubt wandered here by mistake and entered without realizing the consequences. Someone did write to complain that he thought he was buying a rondelle of Edam cheese on Ebay. His poem was tactfully withdrawn. One finalist, Jodi Paloni, happens to be a newcomer to NC. Go democracy!)


Steven Axelrod


Somehow, the debt’s repaid. To owe
So much: thirty five years ago,
being driven home from camp, the sky vast,
Watching out the window as the telephone lines loop past
Falling asleep with a stuffed tiger pillow –

And now I finally know
How you earn such grace. You grow,
You drive your own son home, car fueled and gassed:
Somehow, the debt’s repaid.

It’s nothing more than this, you know:
To drive as you were driven, to go
Along the same highway, not fast
Cautiously, responsible, at last,
Letting the sleeping child in the back seat show:
Somehow, the debt’s repaid.

Jodi Paloni

Thistle Down

Among the thistle down a swing
A tiny beast weaves silken string
With hairy legs and rapid eye
Though brown as loss, fails to belie
his endmost warp ‘til death bells ring

We sprawl in weeds where crickets sing
As Spider wefts one final fling
a lacework aperture to sky
Among the thistle down

We trade the woes of winter’s cling
for long last looks at Spider King
Whose reign on life relents to die
Whose wasted labors bend and dry
And loose their grasp and take to wing
Among the thistle down

Rich Farrell

Who Do You Think You Are?

I’m writing a poem, he said to the girl, a rondeau.
She sat at his table and her cleavage did show.
You a poet? she asked. This chick had some swank
And poets get lucky, so no need to be frank.
He told her he was as she ordered Bordeaux.

Poets are sexy, she said, but lacking in dough.
I write too, on occasion, my name’s Alice Munro.
He felt horribly trapped, and his mind it went blank.
I’m writing a poem.

Where had he published, she wanted to know,
New York, Paris, Sydney, Toronto?
He slurped down the wine, regretting his prank
Then he shouted with pride, On Numero Cinq!
So take your short stories, your wine and just go,
I’m writing a poem.

Anna Maria Johnson

The Way To A Man’s Heart is Through His Stomach, or Kitchen Ostinato

In the kitchen, eating avocado,
Sits a housewife and a desperado.
He weeps gently while she peels a carrot.
“Things are not what they seem!” squawks her parrot,
then with his beak, pecks an ostinato.

The housewife drinks some amontillado
then scoops a handful of turbinado
to sweeten the tea before they share it
in the kitchen.

The cowboy, trouble aficionado,
tells her that his name is Leonardo.
He’s wasted years on things without merit.
Would he settle down now? Could he dare it?
He gives her a stolen carbinado
in the kitchen.

Vivian Dorsel

Birthday Rondeau
(for those of us born in November)

Advancing age will let us down
Quicker than a strapless gown.
The mirror’s view is looking blighted:
Body a wreck, presbyopically sighted,
Face fixed in a perpetual frown.

No longer do we sport youth’s crown;
These curls are white which once were brown.
We rue those days in which we slighted
Advancing age.

Now Senior is a proper noun
Though in opprobrium we drown,
Desire unreturned, lust unrequited.
Our spurning loves, as one, have cited
That sad excuse of long renown:
Advancing age.

  18 Responses to “The Official 2010 Rondeau Writing Contest Finalists”

  1. Such poems! Sympathies to the judges; I know I couldn’t choose just one. I hope to see Jodi’s on a printed page someday, illustrated.

    • Thanks, Anna Maria. This is a compliment indeed, coming from the winner.

      • Jodi, you realize that there are actually 2 contests at this stage. The People’s Choice in which anyone can vote and the Official contest which is judged by a super-secret cabal of secretive, paranoid, substance-abusing judges who live mostly in a series of safe houses for reasons of security and personal safety (contest entrants have also been known to offer substantial bribes). Anna Maria won the People’s Choice competition; we don’t know who will win the Official contest yet.

  2. Please feel free to register a Formal Complaint. It will be filed with the rest.

    The Management

  3. a) It is unconstitutional to investigate the judges. See the Executive Privilege subsection.
    b) If you repeat an untruth often enough, it becomes true. Um, Gary. Without the glasses, that is definitely you.

  4. A trolley is racing down the tracks, out of control, towards four NC judges who for some reason happen to be standing on them and not paying attention. But there’s a switch you can hit, which will divert the trolley to another track where an impossibly cute rat is nibbling on some cheese.

    Do you:


  5. The girdle is very slimming. NC judges are exposed to all sorts of sweets, rich foods, and decadent libations. The Talisker alone adds 8-10 pounds a year. We have to keep up appearances, Gary.

  6. What an honor! I think.

  7. A finalist! How exciting! It almost makes up for all that unrequited lust.

  8. “…weeping and gnashing of teeth.” You’d think someone had been reading the Bible, or something.

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