It’s here! The results of the third annual Park Bugle April Poetry Contest.

This year’s prompt was “transition” and 19 poets submitted work.

The first-place poem, “The Seven Months That Aren’t Winter,” was written by Susan Warde of St. Anthony Park.

Marilynne Thomas Walton of Falcon Heights wrote the no. 2 poem, “Knowing.” This is Walton’s second time winning in the contest. Her poem “Valentine Danger Time” was the first-place poem in our first contest in 2011.

Third place this year goes to the haiku “present pass” by Kate Mabel of St. Anthony Park.

The poems were judged anonymously by Dave Healy, a former editor of the Park Bugle, Public Art Review and the Writing Center Journal. Healy has taught composition and literature at Bethel College and the University of Minnesota and has had his own work published in Elysian Fields Quarterly, Turtle Quarterly and the Fib Review.

The winning poems are printed below. And here’s what our judge, Dave Healy, had to say about why he made his choices:

All three winning poets address the contest theme of transition by describing the natural world.

In “The Seven Months That Aren’t Winter,” Susan Warde makes artful use of rhyme, alliteration and personification in a sensuous tour of the temperate seasons. There are many lines to praise. Two of my favorites are these:

“While brimming apple boughs are bent / Beneath the welcome weight of fruit.”

Marilynne Thomas Walton also uses alliteration to good effect and has created some arresting images. From now on whenever I hear a storm howl, I’ll think: feral-cat winds. And I’ll never be able to look at crows as anything other than black-frock-coated.

Haiku, despite its apparent simplicity, is difficult to do well. Kate Mabel proves an adept practitioner of the form in “present pass.” I like the poet’s implicit permission for us to feel melancholic in spring and the ambiguity of “winter’s drift.”

 

1.

The Seven Months That Aren’t Winter

Dispersed in cheerful clumps, a few

Blond daffodils that nod their heads

Above the spreading squill (so blue!)

Appear in all the garden beds.

 

Some trees flaunt crowns of pink and white,

A festive feast for every bee.

And then the petals, too, take flight:

A careless breeze has set them free

 

And now like snow they lie beneath

The branches bright with early green.

Then roses bloom, and bridal wreath,

And blowsy peonies steal the scene.

 

Lilies trumpet, “July is here!”

But then, no rain. We scan the sky

For laden clouds that don’t appear. The lawns go brown. The earth is dry

 

And thirsty.Desperate are the seeds

We sowed in April. Now they long

For moisture. Undeterred, the weeds,

Triumphantly have joined the throng.

 

The show goes on. Though some are spent,

Other blossoms will follow suit,

While brimming apple boughs are bent

Beneath the welcome weight of fruit.

 

The days grow brief, and bronze and gold

And radiant red suffuse the trees.

Then seasoned gardeners brave the cold

To bury bulbs before the freeze.

 

And when at last the flowers fade

And fall’s first ruinous killing frost

Has put an end to this parade

Of garden’s glory, is all lost?

 

Though some of us may not be here

To witness it, the earth fulfills

The promise of another year:

The comeliness of daffodils.

     —Susan Warde, St. Anthony Park

 

2.

Knowing

On the night

of Thanksgiving

first snow fell,

spread as familiar

as butter on bread.

Calculating its own depth

on the wrought-iron railings,

along the bare branches

of penitent undiseased ash trees.

Weighed ancient arborvitaes

into softness for swings

and hammocks of chickadees.

 

Feral-cat winds rocked

all looseness outside:

Shutters, shake shingles,

the unfrozen waters of Como Lake,

where lately trumpets

spouted white music

between pillars of the Pavilion.

Now the fog horns of Canada geese

have silenced;

flown to sweet lands

smelling of dogwood, oleander, rosemary,

and honeysuckle in the Carolinas.

 

Snow becomes our familiar.

In the same way

that we come to know

the distancing death of

a loved one.

Winter crows in black frock coats,

snow-huddling, are last to leave the wake.

     —Marilynne Thomas Walton, Falcon Heights

 

3.

present pass

placid and demure

spring pardons melancholy

and greets winter’s drift

     — Kate Mabel, St. Anthony Park

 

Apollo

And a lunatic is he

He sees the moon at night

A colored ball of light

It’s nothing special they say

A conquered sphere of rock

We now control

And when it is full

He looks and sees

That he cannot grasp it

     — Eric Guire

 

Deception, Minnesota

Trash emerges from piles of dirty snow melting under the cold March sun.

Seemingly pure mounds of sparkling white have been reduced to dingy gray.

 

Grit and sand applied to unsmooth the icy road now have the opposite effect.

Tires slip and slide, like an accumulation of lies starting to whirl out of control.

 

The overly-confident and the overly-trusting spin out and fall.

Grit grinds painfully into flesh.

 

Torn scraps of regrets surface, half-forgotten shards reappear to pierce the heart again.

We wait for cleansing rains, for days warm enough to give us the courage to sweep away the grimy residue.

     — Poldi Gerard

 

The robin and the rose

The cold autumn winds cannot reunite leaves

with trees-the robins rain enraptured eyes

and wind waltzed wings tempt caged tears that grieve.

A widow plants flowers-her old man lies

ready to caress the contours of a rose,

his fingers are phantoms too frail to grip

a swaying rose as the cemetery gates close

and with newly found notes the robin slips

into a rhapsody. Fingers rove across

thorns, a flower soothed into stillness

a wifes haunted heart made still by the loss

of harking for the music of madness.

Under red winter skies a robin bathes

snow falls from thorns below ice captured graves.

Barry Carter Hull, England

 

 

Getting Along

Every person is like a piece of paper and each passerby leaves a mark (Chinese proverb)

 

The teacher gently asserted:

“I’ve met lots of adults in my life.

Most could read or write,

Most had some math skills,

All were potty-trained

But,

I have met too many adults,

Who did not know how to get along with others.

If you wish to enroll your child

In this pre-school

We will include attention to math,

The language arts, including reading,

AND we will emphasize getting along.

Would you like to enroll your child here?”

 

Later, at her memorial,

A tall man read from a piece of paper.

He asserted:

That working in this way with children,

And their parents,

Was radical social justice.

Pride and appreciation was voiced

For the marks she made.

Others followed.

I left with regret.

My parents chose a different school.

I can add, subtract, write and read.

I’m still trying to get along.

     — Ted Bowman, St. Anthony Park, In remembrance of Sheila Richter

 

Does It Matter, Really?

Why did it take them so long to find him?

 

The meeting was out early; it was already dark.

Midwestern winters are never kind.

He called us saying he was on his way.

We called the police, in a panic, when he didn’t arrive.

 

Where would an 84-year-old man go if not straight home?

 

The police took him to the hospital after midnight.

They called to report to us there had been a wreck.

His car had plunged through a large snow bank, and

They found him unconscious, in the car, smashed against a tree.

 

Did he lose consciousness before or after the wreck?

 

After four weeks in the hospital, actually three hospitals,

We learned he might someday breathe on his own again.

At best, they reported, he might regain twenty percent

Of his former capacities, and require constant care.

 

Why do we need a family meeting at the lawyer’s office?

     — Gail McClure

 

Gravitational Security

Touching soothes him.

He coaxes music from every object,

tactile confirmation, an accommodation

of imperfect visual development.

The Piano, an unexpected revelation

in touch and auditory gratification.

He must cross Middle ‘C’ and his own

midline to push an arpeggio along

life’s infinite keyboard of choices.

Music may be the bird that opens

his caged neurologic highways.

The piano an airfield of unlimited

ascensions and smooth surfaces,

transitions unfolding harmoniously.

     — Amy  Unger, Lauderdale

 

January, 2013

A month has passed.

The world it seems is beaten with age.

Grey, grief and drought-stricken,

Perhaps he will not rise.

 

But the wind tonight is easy.

The snow the weight of a father’s hand

Upon the back of a sleeping child.

     — Mark Robinson, St. Anthony Park

 

Light Harvesters

Not just for beauty.

Not just for flight.

Butterflies flutter,

harnessing solar light.

Delicate, sophisticated creatures.

Their wing structure, shingle like.

Overlapping, serrated edges –

small holes in wing architecture

lead to a second layer.

How did they ever figure

that one out?

Inspired bi-peds with

electron microscopes

translate the mystery.

Flutter by butterfly.

     — Sherley Unger, Lauderdale

 

Peace of Sunshine

The flood of sunshine

Warmed our outdoor space.

 

He soaked in the glow, perhaps filled with memories of what was.

Me squinting at his face to see his reaction to being outside with me, and remembering.

 

We sat silent.

He in his wheelchair.

Me on the bench.

We were together

Enjoying the presence of each other’s company.

 

Company was enough.

We didn’t need to speak.

We were together in the days of winter, in the August heat.

 

A smile.

A chuckle.

A look of knowing glances, that we didn’t need to explain our understanding.

 

Enveloped in the sun.

Enveloped in our love.

Grateful that we were together in the waning moments before eternity.

     —Terry Lipelt, St. Anthony Park

 

This is how the birth of the Ham Lake Fire came about.

 (According to Fishhook Island)

Just after the ice broke

an angel of the Lord may have

appeared to the spruce and chickadees

(though no woman was there)

 

saying, “A bright flame is conceived

by the Holy Spirit and it will visit

your island,” and to the moose,

“a rebirth will occur and you shall

 

name it ‘The Ham Lake Fire.'”

Soon the flame spread, growing

ash, calling for resurrection

-and it is good

 

that from the brokenness grows

grace, that from ash-

trees- and that the son of

God is Immanuel.

     —Sarah Clark, with a little help from Matthew 1:18-23

 

Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s

Unexpected changes

Rewire my brain

Challenging and withdrawing

Dance

     —Karen Fillmore Nave, Lauderdale

 

Waiting

On the day you are yet to be born

rain falls on the lamb’s tongue.

You draw your fingers through its wooly curls,

back and forth over the bony knolls of its skull

as if they were rolling hills where sweetgums bleed

the auroras you caress from them.

 

You take flight in the birch wood,

peel back the white paper to the peachskin core

and feel in the lenticel trace the spot

where a tiny soul has skinned his knuckles.

You become a squirrel, scramble to the crown

 

to call his name, but terror comes instead

as the goshawk, feathered fierce and talons taut…

so you become instead a hemlock branch

and give him, bowing, a place to rest his weight.

All the legions of snakes then raise their heads

 

on their lithe bodies, curious to behold you,

like so many ghostflowers on a carpet of sorrow.

You laugh then, blow across the meadow

and make the fangs of knowledge schoolchildren of dreams.

Poor broken-winged sparrow hops onto your knee,

 

and when you cup it in your hands to kiss it,

herds of gazelles thunder at the gates of your heart.

Your feet skim the arch of leaves reaching for the sun,

and when starlings come clamoring with expectation,

you offer them instead the gift of flight in unison.

 

The delighted birds darken the sky with their numbers,

so you take the blanket they make and wrap all poets

until their desire is refashioned into syllables

and their words bring sleep to warriors.

You peer into the lion’s eye and see what it beholds:

 

the deep and bountiful eyes of every creature,

uncountable polished pebbles on the lakeshores of eons,

roaring of stars, careening of galaxies, and the shower of nebulae

as the cape of the Maker passes near.

 

These are the reasons you are yet to arrive

and why I never cease waiting for you.

     — Tom Will, St. Anthony Park

 

Shaokatan

There is a time of day in the prairie

when the wind stops,

and the babes in the nest

open their mouths wide

to better catch some air.

 

All day my ears have been used to

the roaring noise,

like waves breaking at sea.

My body used to the constant rhythm of everything around me.

To the tightness of my skin.

 

But then, there is that time of day

when everything is still.

The grass stops its waving movement

blades reaching towards the light.

The branches in distant trees do not sway.

The hills look like photographs in postcards.

There is a muggy odor coming out of the earth.

 

This is the time of day in the

summer prairie

when the heat rises and dampens my eyes

waking up feelings long gone.

 

The memories come tumbling down

like weeds on a dirt road

like tears rolling down my face

as I sit watching my life go by

in the prairie

and the cattle go on grazing by the ditch

so still.

 

It is but a few minutes or hours

or seconds.

And it is gone. The wind returns.

It dries up my skin.

 

The swallows surf on the air

as they sing,

as they catch insects for their young.

The blue of dawn colors the fields

in pale tones of velvet.

I am at peace, now that the gentle breeze

cools memories.

And as the sun goes down

and the sky turns red,

the wind gains speed.

In the prairie, the world is

rushed again.

The stillness is no more.

     —Teresa Ortiz, Ivanhoe, Minn. 

 

 

Childhood Friends

We grew up in a special, quiet town

in a time that seems far away these days.

Yet, a loyalty was spawned to one another

that has lasted these many years.

Even now when we have gone our separate ways

living in such faraway places as

Africa

New York

Hawaii

Washington, D.C.

and Russia

our thoughts rush upstream to be born again.

Who would have thought our paths would

circle the globe?

Not I.

Childhood we all shared

now our children are in that special world.

We are all apart

but, tell me,

don’t you sometimes see us in their eyes?

     —Mary Walker, St. Anthony Park

 

Searching

From my seat facing backward

to the direction of my journey

out of London on the 10:36,

I see a sign atop a building:

“Breakdown Specialist.”

I imagine a doctor’s anteroom

filled with sniffling misery, everyone

waiting, in their own style of patience,

for a wiser head to fix their woes

or save them from some bleak reality,

say the discovery that a deeply desired

other, whose very fingertips

inspire soaring fantasies

considers him or her

just another friend,

pleasant company to be with

now and then.

These suffering souls don’t really want advice,

I think, but some magical elixir,

a rare prescription

for unconditional love.

Maybe the Breakdown Specialist

will encourage them to search

for the dreamed-of potion;

everything is somewhere, after all.

Or perhaps he’ll advise them

to hop a speedy train

for a new destination,

sit facing forward

and don’t look at signs

receding in the distance.

Just listen to the wheels:

carry on, carry on, carry on.

     — Claire Aronson, Lauderdale

 

Hosta Seasons

Low, green hostas fling

up a summer surpise—spikes

of lavender blooms.

 

Cowardly hostas

turned yellow and crouched down days

before winter came.

 

Hosta skeletons

sink into the ground; will spring

revive their green-ness?

hosta: a genus of plants . . . of the lily family . . . with white or violet flowers

     — Merriam Webster’s. 11th edition

 

     — Betty Ann Burch, Como Park


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