The following is a list of contestants and their poems for the Bugle’s 12th annual poetry competition:
- Susan Warde -Second place finisher
All Things Come
She arrived on schedule, mid-May,
all whiz and zip, and sampled the syrup
I’d just put out the day before.
Sip, pause, sip, pause.
Sip sip sip. She perched
on a branch and preened her fluff
with a rapier beak before she zig-
zagged off, etching a quick
in the empty air.
She came back to tipple
throughout the day,
and the next,
and the next.
And then she didn’t.
Around the still-full feeder
wasps hover hopefully.
I wait for her return.
It’s what we do, wait.
We lie low, sit tight, hold the phone.
We wait for the dawn throughout
a troubled night. We wait
for a letter to come, and the other shoe to drop,
for Godot, for the light to change and the water to boil,
for the test results and better weather,
for Christmases and the baby’s first steps,
for the dreaded and the desired,
the inevitable and the impossible, even
for a three-gram tuft of feathers.
2. Shelley Steingraeber
A meander is a walk
with or without a stop
to gaze, to wander
to gather thoughts
that refresh and inspire
or remind us to reach higher
it is remembering to dream
that this wanderer has sought
3. John Louis Smith
Endless blue obscures
my eyes as clouds dance
below me, the world I sit
upon a land of ticks, for whom my peak is a dream.
If I shake or shout, they would all die.
Good for them I don’t feel like it.
The cutters chip, chip, chip
bits of me roll away
in barrows, trucks, trains,
leaving toes, ankles, thighs.
Maybe I’ll walk in a thousand years.
4. Marilynne Walton
“Christmas Through the Storm Door Glass”
The littlest ones miss their old Grandmother.
But, Oh, they can’t set foot in her house!
A dingy wolf named Covid slinks up
and down the city streets.
Sometimes disguised as a sheep.
The danger will be a part of their history,
to repeat when all grown up.
We do not want Covid entering
the little red house with it’s manger scene,
and touchable tchotchkes tastefully scattered about;
canopy bed to jump into like a plump snow drift.
So, the children in summer plummet
on the backyard green slope.
They are like baby brown rabbits
born for generations, cozy
beneath the rickety garden shed.
And then, gleeful, the grandchildren picnic
on picked-up fast food treats.
When we have a group hug,
we cover ourselves from head to toe in
Grandma’s old white cotton sheets.
And shout “I’m Casper the Ghost!”
When Christmas came,
little mittened hands
passed red and green tissue papered gifts
through the glass storm door, opened a bit.
The air puffed white with our breath.
Blew frosted blue kisses.
Our saddened hearts lifted
like a benediction from
the holy Child birthed Ages ago.
Our lives and thoughts freed,
somersaulting with childlike mirth.
As we beamed from inside
outside through the
Storm door glass.
Christmas came to a peaceable pass.
5. Joanna Lees
A Dreaded Diagnosis
Life for me now is a small boat on a great river
I have never seen or known before;
every bend, every bank, every current seems to deliver
an unnerving world to explore,
some full of hope, even beauty, but many terrifying,
and all beyond my control.
My boat is lonely and tiny, and I am always trying
to reach the shore with my soul….
my body stuck in solitude in this little floating shell:
but my spirit is increasingly full
of images and words from you who wish me well,
and I am constantly learning.
When I began this journey more than two months past,
I hit the falls without warning;
I thought that my boat might be doomed not to last
beyond the rapids I saw below,
and I fell almost weightless, from a world that I knew
to this constantly changing flow
that appears calm just before new rapids appear
and reverses its way without a sign.
Many who have watched my journey have felt joy or fear
unmatched by what is happening;
since only the river knows when it will grow wild, or turn
back on itself, I use great care
in what I hope and dread. Thus it comforts me to learn
so many are concerned how I fare.
I still do not know when or where or how I will be free
to join you on the now green shore,
which was brown with winter when the river took me
on this harrowing adventure.
6. Claudia Hampston Daly
STEVE OF THE STREET
June 2, 2015
It’s strange to think that I may never see him again, to finally know his name but to realize that I was speaking it to him for the first and last time. I gave Steve lots of one dollar bills over the course of my years of coming to the Farmers Market in St. Paul and his years of conducting his panhandling business on a nearby corner. Those days are now in the past. A new ball field has taken over his corner. Steve has gone out of business.
He used to park himself under the overhang
Near the doors to the old warehouse building
A good spot for catching shoppers coming and going
From the Farmers Market
In bad weather –– most Minnesota weather –– he had shelter
When people came by, he could just step out
Wearing his red winter parka
Didn’t have to say anything
Looking mournful did the trick
They gave him money
Not much money, mind you
A couple of quarters or a buck mostly
Occasionally someone who’d just left a car
In the lot across the street
Would nod, “Catch you later”
Sometimes it happened, sometimes not
The women felt bad breaking a promise
When they came back, juggling big bags labeled Trader Joe’s
Or Health Partners, bags overflowing with fresh food,
They were ready for him with a couple of singles
Or maybe a five spot
He’d never been to Trader Joe’s and hadn’t seen the inside
Of a Health Partners clinic for fifteen years
But at the end of the Market on a Saturday or Sunday
When he had a little jingle in his jeans
He’d wander over, hungry
Once in a while a couple of the vendors gave him food
Little plastic bags with a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese
And if the meat guy had grilled that day
Brats, two or three of them
He tried to make himself wait but he ate them right away
Like they were his last meal
Some days, they could have been
Then the neighborhood changed
A ball park was going in
Trucks, graders, front-end loaders
Mountains of rubble, piles of earth
Architects, engineers, construction guys
Semis full of steel and wood and
Sacks of concrete
So much activity
He felt cold, even in October or April
His parka was old, kind of thin
With no building to protect him
He had nowhere to stand
But last week, Steve had good news
Life was looking up
Got a place in a government high-rise
Social security disability finally came through
He was quitting the street
He said with a crooked smile
Fondling a ten dollar bill
Stuffing it into the worn jacket pocket
“Yep, I’m quitting the street, getting off the corner
The neighborhood has changed
And I’m changing, too,” soft spoken, a little mournful
His best tricks: the red parka and the mournful look
I wished him well
I gave him money
7. Betty Lotterman
Just in Spring Betty
Just in Spring the pale green shoots spring
out of the ground,
Unfurling themselves to reveal
Tiny, fragrant white bells hanging
from a delicate arch.
What hymn are they singing?
Just in Spring a pointed nose springs
out of its small round hole in the ground.
Is it a mouse? Or a vole? Or a chipmunk?
Just in Spring the kite springs
from my outstretched arms
as the gusts whirl
the unspooling string in my hand.
Will the string be strong enough?
And I, Just in Spring, I spring
down the sidewalk
in my new tennis
on the first day I leave my heavy, clunking boots behind.
Will you skip down the sidewalk with me?
8. MaryBeth Luing
Farewell in the Space Set Between Us
Mississippi River Introspect
Dances with Dignity
Welcome, Little One
You Are the Bad Cool
The Dress is NOT White
Dancing with my Baby (Girl)
Festival of Champions
Finished, typed, secured
in a digital doc
Stored by Goog in their remarkable digital Cloud,
Set in basic Times New Roman, devoid of the curve of my
hand script, imaging my mindset in the slant and space of the words writ cursive;
In a file labeled
These poems remain with me, faring well,
In a digital space.
Not lost, tucked into a travel portfolio porting my raw
Sounds, indents, punctuations all a mess, living quietly as immature Working Poems.
Not pilfered during a car intrusion by a
pack of petty thieves,
Not discarded into a dumpster, as worthless thrash,
Not carted away to a landfill by a belching trash hauler on an early inner urban route—
Riding away tossed together with chewed on chicken wing waste,
half eaten C-store hotdogs, broken window fans,
old shoddy shoes with torn toes, a designer handbag–
perhaps also stolen by
sodden with spilled
smashed up with unflushable, soiled, odorous feminine sanitary products,
and faintly aromatic ginger citrus tea bags,
aged, acrid coffee grounds, pest control bedbug traps (futile), wadded up condoms silently spilling spent passion.
faded away from
unable to reclaim
from more than
in a journal labeled
Worked on for over 3 years; that’s156 weeks of
many late nights,
In my space.
1963 ½ Blue Ford Mustang—
I don’t recall
Dresses Well for Being
53 Faces of Lost Lives
Do the Math—‘We the People’ can’t pay No Mo’
(the best of them).
In my beloved journal,
In a protected space.
These poems were gaining
their power to BE,
Some just begun,
most in states of revision
of fine words and labored-over lines—loved, left behind, edited, set aside, reclaimed, removed…
One was nearly finished.
It had begun to find a melody!
Was it a song, a star,
being born? Maybe…
…just a bit of polishing to do, then it was ready to be typed
into the Goog file,
Where ‘keepers’ remain cradled safely
sent out to find
In their spaces.
These poems were snatched away by a 6-pack of malcontents
with too much boredom,
too little respect,
and deep experience in a smash an’ grab MO.
They likely saw no value in a poetry journal,
as they casually pilfered through my most intimate
It was just writing on paper, and nice black ink pens in a handsome portfolio case
with an artsy vibe;
‘My main sweet will think the designer case is dope’, say’d the lead bling-hat,
In his space.
Fare well, my poems, fare well,
May peace abide
In the space
9. Matt Dahl–Third place
No metallic gold, no button of silk,
No cremastral hook to anchor you,
Insecure from the chilling winds
Yet inside the chrysalis a light stirring,
Yes in you there’s a subtle growing—
The day you—
—Sitting on your empty shell
Looking up now,
Let the updrafts
Carry you toward the sun
10 . Judith Monson
It’s good I waited
Until I was 80
To knock out
The west wall
Of the back porch
Build a small
Open up the backyard
And paint the house
Pink with lilac trim
As good as it gets
11. Andrea Blain-First place
A tree will seem a fond forever thing,
her bond to earth a promise. Fickle change
treads lightly within leaves that drop, or snow that rests
a moment before the buds of spring reclaim
her greening arms, as birds reclaim their nests.
Her grace was much beyond the branching heft
of other trees; their creeping shade no match
for the dappled light her quiet tendrils left…
Her trunk embraced a mossy windward lean
in time, her frothy fingers touched the ground
And on a brittle, snow-blue winter day
she whispered free and fell without a sound.
Splintered but steadfast –
and gentle to the end,
the sky has changed forever, fallen friend.
12. Elizabeth (Libby) Baur
When winter is over…
we’ll pull our weary bodies into a lilac world.
We’ll string lights in the lime green canopy,
and lay watching them sway from the
perfumed pink carpet below.
Inside the gray rooms we leave behind,
the breeze will ripple the curtains, airing out
the longest, loneliest season.
When our color returns,
we’ll exchange our blues for juicy reds – and we won’t think of returning
until after the sunflowers find rest for their heavy heads.