Bugle Poetry Contest Winners Capture Changes

Bugle Poetry Contest Winners Capture Changes

With April commencing National Poetry Month, the Bugle has conducted its ninth annual poetry competition.

This year, we asked our lyricists to draw their inspiration from these two words: transformation and change. All entries were judged anonymously by former Bugle editor David Healy, also a long-time writer and poet from St. Anthony Park. 

Healy chose what he considered the top three entries. Our first-place winner and recipient of $50 is Mimi Jennings, a St. Anthony Park poet and former French teacher at St. Paul’s Central High School.  Second- and third-places go to Catherine Reid Day and Alice Duggan, respectively.  Here are our top three poems: 

First Place

Shoe Shopping

By Mimi Jennings 

I sit, try on shoes 

touching the seams that someone in China has sewn. 

Fingerprints unseen beneath mine, skin oil 

of the last person to touch them before me.

I velcro them, stand, test the sock-insole interface—nice.

What do I know of China? 

I think about my comfort resting 

on workers in poor countries

and the shoes get uncomfortable. 

I hand them back, 

walk questions through the day.

If Nature abhors a vacuum doesn’t she revile 

a kindness void? In the name of all that is physics 

can this imbalance go on? 

Why not a world where we’d get snapshots of the people 

who twist wire ties around our charger cords?

Where I’d see stuffed into the new mug on my counter 

something more than Inspected by number 23

where I could find written under the shoe’s tongue, I don’t know—

maybe, Hi there. I’m Chu, in production!

Healy’s review: “The world of commerce is often impersonal. Whose fingers left their unseen prints on the goods we buy? What if we at least had a name to attach to a purchase? After reading Mimi’s poem, my own shoes feel uncomfortable.”

Second Place

After Listening to Marie Howe on the Radio

“I don’t know about the soul.”

By Catherine Reid Day

What I know is the ground, the way 

the soles of my feet open 

when I free them from shoes. 

Touching earth 

rough and smooth and 

moist with waters

reborn each morning in the dew.

Far below the thin top crust

deep rivers of lava

keep flowing 

in orange and yellow heat.

A bean seed emerges from darkness,

sloughing a crinkled brown seed casing, 

a jaunty cap tipped to one side,

its pale green stalk straight and proud.

It will feed us in July.

I speak with chickadee who

scolds the chipmunk, now rustling 

in the dried grasses beside the garage

dreaming of what is fat and tender and just planted.

It’s tempted to steal.

What I know lives inside me.

It flows with a knowing 

deep as the lake. 

Inside, a rhythm beats true and steady.

Inside, I hear my truth, and reach

bare-handed into my muck, 

pull myself up by my roots,

lift my truth toward the sun, 

blink back blindness 

and see brilliance.

Healy’s review: When I first read this, we were still in the grip of an apparently endless winter. Catherine’s images — bare feet opening, bean seeds emerging, chipmunks foraging — would be potent any time but are especially so when spring is but a hazy memory.

Third Place

They Call it the Nursing Home 

By Alice Duggan 

Put your heels down first, says the physical therapist, changing my life

or at least the way I walk, as I follow the floor tiles, 

swinging my head from side to side, 

inside this edifice built to launch orphans into new lives, 

a way station with playmates, meals and a good milk cow, 

bordered by shining new street car tracks. 

Back a hundred years or so, they called this the Children’s Home, 

and into its arms came a river of giving, women to mend and hem and darn, 

farmers bearing potatoes, cabbage. Do you find you’re distracted 

easily, the therapist asks; and Yes, I don’t say, I don’t say I want to find 

the room where my husband’s mother died. Could she have 

more morphine, we asked, as she writhed in her bed.

It’s too much to unfold all at once. They call it the Nursing Home,

and I blame my wondering gaze on these cheery hallway photos, 

taken of residents here. These are our elders. I am they,

and we the brief owners of these halls. 

Healy’s review: “We pass through buildings all our lives. What traces of ourselves do we leave behind? What messages does a room, a hallway, hold for a new occupant? If you’d never pondered such questions before, I bet you will now after reading Alice’s lovely poem.”

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