fiction, poetry & more

Honorable Mention
$25 Award


by Kenneth Fries

by Kenneth Fries

Old Gus, boatman of the words, wisdom of the water
gathered with his class to workshop poems

Gus told the cautious lawyer 
your crafty verse compels but fails
for want of color, passion, music — Let the river roar
before you set off in your raft

To the woman young in love
I like the bright song of your sketch, gold and green of spring
but ‘til gray of winter works into your brush
— Open to the darkness coming in

Gus stopped a stooping boy
last to leave
who handed Gus a note of suicide
framed in black with scratchy pen

Gus read the note, then said

The lines are good but much too short
Readers, I am sure, will want to know
just why the poet chose
to not go on, especially
the more despondent ones

Go deeper in the black
don’t leave it round the edge
though I like the cascade chronicle of defeat that you put down
perhaps it is the comic touch
that moves me so

Gus caught his eye, asked the boy
to rework the piece, come to class again
lightly touching the boy’s arm
— take your time
— let it all evolve
— you have a poet’s voice, a poem well on its way


After a full career in law, Kenneth Fries’ passion is now reading and writing poetry. He is grateful for the encouragement of teachers, friends and other writers, in particular Rod Jellema at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, Jeanne Clark at CSU Chico, and Claire Bras-Valentine of Yuba City, CA. Kenneth lives in Kuna, Idaho with his wife Janet and three charming canines.

March 2020