By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Oct 18, 2004 at 5:30 AM

{image1} is pleased to announce that Susan Firer and Kate Kliner are the winners of the Third Annual Milwaukee Poetry Contest.

Firer, an adjunct assistant professor and senior lecturer at UWM, won top prize for her piece, "The Bright Waterfall of Angels."

"The poem's origin came from numerous journal entries, mostly observations from that summer," says Firer, 55, who has had more than 100 poems published in literary reviews and newspapers, including "Ms.," "The Chicago Tribune," "Georgia Review," "Iowa Review" and many others.

"I had just buried both my parents and my sister. I was questioning everything."

Firer, who currently resides in Shorewood, has lived on the western shore of Lake Michigan for most of her life. She is working on her fifth book of poems inspired by Lake Michigan's imagery, language, personal and cultural myth and more.

"I find the imagery, idiom, language and lakescape of Milwaukee interesting, rhythmic and compelling," she says.

Garrison Keillor read a couple of Firer's poems on his program "Writers' Almanac" and the Wisconsin Arts Board and Milwaukee County have awarded her fellowships.

For her winning poem, Firer will receive a $200 gift certificate to Schwartz Bookshops, theater tickets and an gift pack. She will read her work at Cardinal Stritch on Oct. 28.

{image2}Coincidentally, it was a Frank O'Hara poem ("The Day The Lady Died") that Kliner read in a summer creative writing workshop with Firer that inspired her to write her winning poem, "Brady Vibes."

"It was the first real writing class I took this summer at UWM with Ms. Firer and it was just awesome," says Kliner. "She's a great teacher and brought a lot of poems out of me with her enthusiasm for words."

Kliner wrote the piece at 3 a.m., after a caffeine binge. The 19-year-old sophomore says she usually writes during the wee hours, sometimes after hanging out on Brady Street.

"To me, Brady Street is the epitome of the East Side mentality, a relatively liberal and diverse place where anyone can go to get coffee or see art or just hang out," says Kliner, who grew up in Shorewood and is studying journalism and art history at Arizona State University.

"Even in Arizona there's a few art shops and that sort of thing, but the aura and the type of people here really aren't the same."

Kliner will receive a $100 gift certificate to Schwartz Bookshops, theater tickets and an gift pack.

"It was another incredible contest," says Molly Snyder Edler, OMC writer, editor and contest organizer. "We received almost 60 submissions this year, many that were extremely well crafted."

To read winning poems, go to next page.

The Bright Waterfall of Angels -- Susan Firer

Everywhere that summer there were angels,

hanging over the lake piers deflated with prayer,

blowing like soap bubbles past night windows,

flying from the weekend colored skirts

of young girls. In August, under the full

moon, I walked Oakland Ave., and a night

bus, windows burning yellow with angels, passed.

And still, I could see people praying for more

bird angels, drug angels, kaiser roll angels, money

angels, love angels, health angels, rain angels.

There were angels with hearts large as bagpipes

who circled our village's ice cube houses

and flew bright loud into our bang nights.

There were angels in movie houses and in sweet corn

stands, and angels who dropped like catalpa

snakes from summer. One angel followed

me into our Chang Cheng Restaurant. Where

were the angels that summer when the neighbor-

hood women were being hunted and ripped

open like field animals? Or when the man

who walked away from DePaul Rehab gave up

on my garage? When I came home from "The Wizard

of Loneliness" the Flight for Life

helicopter was landing in my front yard.

And a young man was leaning against my garage,

his throat an awful open clown smile

Rivers and streams of dark blood

ran down the alley. All the children

awakened by the helicopter ran barefoot

and pajamad through the actual

blood and night. Mary,

the neighborhood nurse, kept telling

everyone there was a murderer loose.

"No one could do that much damage to themselves.

I'm a nurse, I'm telling you that no one could

do that much damage to themself."

And the police, and firefighters, and pilot,

and attendants their rubber gloved hands filled

with the moon, and someone held up the knife

the man used on himself. Off they rolled

him on a cot into the helicopter.

When they took off lighted and loud into the mid-

night sky, I saw angels of despair, windfull

and spinning happy on the helicopter blades.

There were angels who wrote their names on leaves,

and show-offs who rode August's tornadoes.

Nights the sky was often a thunder of angels,

a heat lightning sky, where angel wings fit

together in crossword puzzle perfection.

At the State Fair that August, the great

chefs of Wisconsin came to convince the world

of the superior beauty of carved cheese over carved

ice for table centerpieces, and although originally

they had come planning to carve cows and swans,

always the cheddar blocks turned to the gold

cheesy beauty of angels. Angels hid

behind apples, behind goldfinches, hid in foot-high

Mexican-stuffed toads who stood forever on

their back legs, their front legs shellacked forever

into playing red painted concertinas.

And if someone would have come to you as many

years as you are old ago, and told you:

You will be slapped around, a man will cut your

mouth open, only because he says he loves you,

and you will have to give up lovers, before they are,

and children before they are yours;

friends will call you from sexual assault centers

and their stitched together voices will tell you

things done to them that you will never be able to forget.

Some friends you will bury and children and parents, too.

(Your mother and father will breathe flowers

from their graves.) Your body's skin and bones

will cartwheel around you, tilt-a-whirl around you

until you are nauseous and dizzy and uncertain.

The money angel will never like you; often

you will sleep with razor blades. Often

you will fall out of the trap door of yourself

and have to climb back up and start over, and

sometimes the angels will help and often they won't,

and you can never count on either. And if someone

had to come to your, as many years ago as you are old

right now, and told you all this, and more,

would you sign up for the bright waterfall of angels?

Would you be silent? Would you whisper, or shout:

Bring on the tour, the bright waterfall of angels tour?

Brady Vibes -- Kate Kliner

Fugitive Rochambo fix

wraps me in its grasp.

Hands quiver and fiery fuel

nips at singed finger tips.

Crazed eyes rise to a mohawk

duo breathing frantic tales

of govern-mental conspiracy

as two fetching manlies

pass arm in arm.

Broken words

whip past me now

like the man who sang

ballads to Che Guevarra.

Old soul buzzes by with a

lonely "Rolling Stone"

cursing the vast exclusions

of the Exclusive Company.

Lipstick lesbians edge along

toting Value Village armor

and weaving smoke halos

that soften spike tresses.

Flash of blue taboo eyelashes

suggests six-legged tangoes.

Telepathic tattoos emanate

from Starship and sculpted

Moxy mannequins thrash

about the boulevard, parading

frozen faces and gold naked legs.

White night suffocates the muggy

glow as its' diamonds blind me swiftly.

Green stars flutter all around me,

dancing across my cloud-kissed eyes.

Summertime tank tops melt

into a thousand brush strokes

upon a massive canvas,

reflecting into the rushing

black-backed sun.