First Place | Poetry Writing Contest

55th New Millennium Award for Poetry

B. Fulton Jennes of Ridgefield, Connecticut for “Father to Son”

Jennes will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.


Father to Son

after Jamaica Kincaid

This is how you pack a snowball so it’ll go the distance; this is how you lift up your voice in church and hurl a hymn to God; this is how you skate backwards, shifting your weight from side to side; this is how you cut your meat so your mother doesn’t know that it’s tough; this is how you mourn an old dog that followed at your heels since you could crawl; this is how you stand up to a bully, even if it’s your father; this is how you make your bed like a Marine; this is how you play Moonlight Sonata—no, slower, slower still; this is how you shake hands and look them in the eye; this is how you talk to a girl so she’ll give you a chance to say more; this is you talk to a cop so he won’t give you the ticket; this is how you mow the lawn before you can go to the prom; this is how you parallel park without sideswiping the car; this is how you change a tire on a hill; this is how you change your mind before you do something stupid; this is how you relieve the hang-over you’re not supposed to have; this is how you pick up the tab; this is how you keep a poker face; this is how you spoon with the woman you love; this is how you kiss the back of her neck over the sink so she’ll relent; this is how you hold a baby so it can feel your heartbeat through your naked skin; this is how you warm a bottle at night and test it on your inner-wrist, the tender spot she tickles with her fingernail when you’re coiled together on the couch; this is how you forgive your mother for her sadness; this is how you admit you were wrong; this is how you lie and say that it doesn’t matter; this is how you bear the unbearable; this is how you recite a poem that pounds like a second heartbeat in your chest; this is how you fall to your knees from the beauty, the beauty; this is how you love like the blue flame of a Bunsen burner; this is how you thank eons-dead stars for their weak, improbable light; this is how you curse that you will die; this is how you pack a prayer so it’ll go the distance; this is how you wait for it to come back. 


B. Fulton Jennes is poet laureate emerita of Ridgefield, Connecticut, and poet-in-residence at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. In 2022, her poem “Glyphs of a Gentle Going” won the Lascaux Prize. Jennes’ collection BLINDED BIRDS (Finishing Line Press) received the 2022 International Book Award for a poetry chapbook. Another chapbook, FLOWN—an elegy for her sister—will be published by Porkbelly Press in 2024. 

Father to Son © 2023 B. Fulton Jennes 
• • • Thanks for Reading • • •
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13 thoughts on “”

  1. Jillian McKelvey

    I was about to write my sister Judy, who lives thousands of miles away from my home in eastern Canada and who is celebrating her 80th birthday today (July 23rd) hiking in the Olympic Peninsula. Her favourite spot on earth. I was pondering my words when NMW appeared on my screen and an invitation to read, “Father to Son” appeared. This poem is a gift and perhaps the most lovely gift I could give my sister. But it is also a gift to me, and I thank you on both counts.


  2. I was happy to be a finalist but you deserved to win. Absolutely beautiful. An arrow shot from the heart. Thank you!
    Would love to exchange books, if you like. You can be in touch via my website or email
    Would love to share my finalist poem with you, as the subject in a way overlaps with your poem. Congratulations! 💐

  3. I liked it a lot. It’s very different from what I used to think of as poetry. But I like this much better.

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