April is National Poetry Month and the Bugle is marking this annual celebration of verse with our fifth annual poetry contest.
Thirty-four poems were submitted, including 13 from a high school English class at Great River School on Energy Park Drive. The poems were judged anonymously by St. Anthony Park poet Alice Duggan.
This year’s prompt was the word speak.
Duggan chose the poem “Breakfast at the Colossal” by John Krumberger of Prospect Park as the first-place poem because the “author paints an imaginative landscape bereft of poetry or speech; uses wonderful images, never lets go of our attention.”
Her second-place choice is “Squirrel Talk,” by Susan Corey Everson of St. Anthony Park and Thousand Oaks, Calif. The poem is “an accurate portrait of an egotistical squirrel who speaks with his tail. It moves off into an imaginary world at the end, like a Beatrix Potter illustration.”
“Sour Salt,” Duggan’s third-place choice was written by Andrea Christensen Zdenek, the English teacher at Great River School who challenged her students to submit poems for this contest. Duggan says this about the poem: “It is so wellobserved; it shows anger without ever using the word. It’s a slice of life with lime. The author lets it be what it is.”
Duggan gave an honorable mention to Medha Faust-Nagar’s “to me” because “the author knows how to reach across history and make connections; [she] does a good job of engaging the reader [and] gets us interested in the demands our culture makes on women.”
Krumberger will receive a gift certificate to Micawber’s Books in St. Anthony Park. The winning poems are printed below, along with all the poems that were submitted to the contest.
Breakfast at the Colossal
Before poetry came to exist
landscape was flat and sky was flat,
both stretched endlessly unremembered
in dreams. The trees did not speak
to the snouts of golden retrievers,
and if there were waitresses,
they did not salsa
while weaving between chairs.
Male and female were two lines that paralleled,
never to intersect.
Words clanged off each other’s jagged undersides,
never coupling to sound
or flowing into phrase simple as it’s all good honey
just hold your shirt.
Even the sun was cold,
even the fires.
The senses had yet to be discovered,
beauty a small asteroid
hurtling towards earth in those days before enchantment,
The squirrel has a flare for acrobatics,
courage to launch his body
down a long, thin wire,
stretch out his pear-shaped torso
and gorge on birdseed from the feeder below.
Shows no regard for juncos waiting a turn,
but waves his tail gaily as if to tell
of a table set with cranberry cakes
and thimbles of blackberry wine.
— Susan Corey Everson
“Hello, just the two of you?”
I slide the menus on the table and nearly spill the water.
“Yes—I’d like a margarita, please, on the rocks.”
Someone looks like she needs a drink.
“Alright, and you, sir?”
Darts fly. “Just give me a minute.”
The blender whirrs, muffling their crossfire.
The limes are past their prime, but they won’t notice.
“Here you go, ma’am. Have you decided, sir?”
“I’ll just have a margarita. I don’t think
we’re going to order anything else.”
“No,” she says, “we’ll just have drinks.”
His brow furrows.
“No, we’ll take the check.”
She shoves the ten dollar bill at me.
He fretfully pats for his wallet. “Come on—”
He huffs with exaggeration.
I take the money from
her shaking hand.
I bus their table, and see them
arguing in front of the window.
The woman locks her eyes with me for a moment—
I was staring. She starts the car. I get back to work.
—Andrea Christensen Zdenek
Two options, and eyes
On me waiting for
Am I one of the self-superior
“we are a developed country —
in the fourth demographic transition—
Here in America . . .”
I watch, and I see the scene play out:
I see the pity flash for
“Those girls on the TV screen,”
See rage rush at the mother-in-laws,
But they don’t know— Don’t notice—
The mother-in-laws are those girls
Whipped into leather with time.
The people here,
They could never see,
“Those women” are me, they live in me,
In my mother,
And they are my grandmother, my great-grandmother;
All these womyn, forced to serve.
Serve the men, serve the elders, serve the rich, serve the whites;
Serve until the day when it was finally their turn
To be served.
And guess what?
We don’t want any pity.
Who am I,
To speak for “those poor brown girls on the screen”
But can’t they see—
Why can’t they see?
“Those women” are me.
So I sit, cold and
“Those poor third world women, I’m so glad it’s better here . . .”
(get shot for saying no)
“I’m so glad we don’t do that . . .
(What? fetishize brown bodies)
. . . HERE in AMERICA!”
“How could those demons,” “those witches,” “force
another woman, into THAT?!”
(lose ten pounds, get a nose job, a boob job,
for god sakes!
just shave your legs, splash on some cover girl, ditch the converse
your ass would look way better in sky high heels)
“WE need to save them!!”
“We NEED to show them our way,”
(it’s OUR system!)
“The right way!”
I don’t say (shit, I want to scream):
Where is my home . . . across the seas?
Or in this endless realm?
How do I know, deep in my heart
where home is meant to be?
So far away . . . but yet so close
Forever in my heart
I see my village . . . close, yet far
My people from the past.
I feel their presence, and their love,
I see my land in dreams
with yearnings for what once was mine
and will forever be.
Yet here it is, this land of mine
Adopted long ago . . .
My roots now anchored deep, and strong
Deep in the earth below.
Its seas, its vast and endless beauty
Its kind and loving people
Here I will rest then . . . in the end . . .
Here in this land . . . MY HOME.
—Ruth Elisabeth Schoch
Up at Billie’s
It is comforting to see seven hefty women,
full-bowed as cuddy boats anchored in the cabin kitchen.
With marbleized blue-veined thighs,
they bump hips and laugh softly,
bellying up to the formica table where
they once bathed cradle-capped babies.
Slicing, sieving, straining, dicing
setting out shell-fluted paper plates
for seaweed-green layered jello, glistening
round brown hamburgers, homemade pickles limp
as kiwi slices, deviled eggs opening
into yellow and white Shasta daisies and
their convoluted names make a wind chime
tinkling over thrust and buck of waves.
Marlene, Joanne, Darlene, Mary Lou.
While the husbands reminisce, sitting out on striped awninged
porch, still go here by their boy names of Mortie,
Bobbie, Bubs, Ritchie. As when single bucks, deer hunters
in this old cabin, they grew quickly as turning trough of
a wave, rolled over like a fat white horse in green meadow.
While Darlene raked the beach in snake tracks, the others
went for a ride on the pontoon, holding hands, boarding,
laughing at themselves. The lake, with its unromantic
name, North Long, snored that night, grieved like a field of
corn in Minnesota wind. Up at Billie’s, everyone is twins—
who they were, who they are, a white buoy on blue breakers.
—Marilynne Thomas Walton
As Simple as Boxed Brownies
The needles flow from stitch to stitch
While the world whispers.
Scratching behind the ears
Of hibernating winter.
A part of the contract
For this early workshop
There is but one speed.
Day and night.
One definite direction.
To move towards our neighbor
shining a sparkler.
Between the starlight and the moonlight
Between the starlight and the moonlight
I hear your voice
Between the sun and the dawn
I see your smile
The years have passed without you
Missing your voice and your smile
But my heart hears your voice between the starlight and the moonlight
and sees your smile between the sun and the dawn.
Love never dies.
are you listening?
did you hear me?
like a weather report
but a body report
ponder, process, make a plan
pay attention to the road ahead
read the signs
get home safely
breath in the good air
After long silence,
He thought of saying what
Was on his mind
—to set free—no matter where it went
the thoughts bullying his mind
He wanted freedom from their tyranny,
Their pressing in, pressing on him
Finally! Godsend! Release!
And he spoke
—Carl L. Schmider
I bought this simple, city house.
near a great park, a small lake,
and those hidden places
where I ran as a boy,
Last night my old neighbor
telephoned from his cabin
in the wooded, Wisconsin Coulee
where I raised my son.
I can no longer afford that wilderness,
but I do enjoy the squabbling
squirrels circling the trunk
of my new neighbor’s maple.
In the wild I learned to exchange
sounds with others and not feel silly.
On this fair morning a small toad
hops into my screen porch, and we talk,
Remember — > Retell — > Repair
Re-member Your History
(Whose Land are you on?)
Retell the Story
Indigenous People’s Day
Voices for Racial Justice
Repair the Whole
(Bring the American Dream HOME)
Black Lives Matter
United We Dream
Occupy Wall Street!
I’m so sorry!
I don’t know what happened.
You know what happened.
I didn’t see you.
You know what happened.
What do we do now?
Are you okay?
I can’t say.
Are you not okay?
I can read lips.
(I shake my head)
You’re not okay?
(I shake my head)
(I nod my head)
I’m a horrible driver.
I can see.
(I nod my head)
I didn’t know.
Now you know.
What are you sorry about now?
I didn’t know.
The Early Bird
It’s said that robins hunt by sight,
eye cast in beady readiness, looking
to spot the prey a centimeter’s depth
from death at the surface of the lawn.
But you can’t tell me they’re not
listening when they cock their heads,
gone mum themselves, catching
the gab of chatty grubs, picking up
the chime of earthworm rings
contracting and expanding
deep in summer’s soil.
Their bearing makes the birds seem smart, like
our old spoiled spaniel, all attention, one rag-ear
drooping, inclined to snack when we offer treat,
a word she knows, along with sit and stay.
The bird brain, though, being what it is,
hears not the lyrics but the melody.
The robin stops to eavesdrop
on the subterranean babble the way
the rapt disc of the sunflower tilts
toward the clamor of the noonday glare,
convinced by what it has to say.
In spring the river sighs in pain
Her surface cracked
Her blood exposed, bursting
Warmed by fickle sun whose gaze
Could melt the core of hell
Then a brief ecstatic shout
Turbulent, tumbling, outspread on the plain
Stretching catlike through languid summer
Until sun, ungenerous, withdraws
Leaving silent soul encased in
Frozen shell again
He wanted to speak Spanish
To meet a senorita
Black hair and
He wanted to speak Spanish
On a quiet Spanish evening
In a tiny Spanish town
Poor and Spanish proud
He wanted to speak Spanish
He couldn’t make the words
Holding the Chaos Gently
The dying man
Asked the psychiatrist to hold him
Gently, he did so
The embrace held man and memories
Too many people killed in the war
Too much life taken by a dying veteran
His secrets now held by another
The man died the next day
Speak, Don’t Speak
We are not to speak of the tropical rains
Which pummeled the coast the night before.
It would do to speak of the noonday sun
Reflecting off a veranda roof next door.
Please, silence about the bougainvillea
And the lilies. Consider instead the asters.
It’s certain we’ve spoken too much about
Limousine fleets, not enough about A-frames.
Before you open your mouth, remember never
Bring up the pachyderm question. Aardvarks okay.
The mirror is sick of hearing about the popes
Of Avignon and Rome. And so am I.
If we can speak about moving our mouths.
Without moving our mouths. Speak of telepathy.
I am not getting your message.
It is February now.
Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow; hence, according to the age-old folklore, we will be seeing a longer winter and late arrival of spring.
Snow has fallen, melted and fallen again.
The Holidays which I vaguely recall came and passed.
How may it possible February already arrived when I feel as if I am still living in the month of October?
Despite my ability to remotely recall a few events, occasions and situations, the vast majority of the past four months reflect a paralyzing, fog-stricken haze which clouds my once conscious, clear mind.
My mind and body are stuck.
I am standing still.
Life dramatically stopped – literally and figuratively – on October 14, 2014, the eve upon which my loving, beautiful mother unexpectedly lost her life here on earth.
The power of grief possesses strength more forceful, raw and wicked than words alone are able to express or describe.
The irony of this fierce force known as grief is the tremendous capacity it has to render one immobilized, paralyzed and thus forced to stand still.
It certainly has had the capacity to render me.
Rest in peace mama.
I love and miss you soooooooo….
Expel it now or keep your peace until you’re dust
What festers reeks unseen but you can feel it
Coddled it beguiles you with smug pleasure
An insidious weed lauding wrath where forgiveness has died.
Willow & I
For once I will believe a one true love
which speaks to me through a secret willow tree
At sunrise edge a golden glow glistens
as crystal raindrops fall for me to see
Cemetery stories of fond history
lay claim to words unspoken though have loved
I will listen unfeigned through my mind’s eye
Utopian dreamer seeks grace from above
Vows not taken nor erased from the slate
‘To have and to hold’ in marble headstone
This sorrow of sympathy woman and man
In life we do part from the past all alone
Unspoken, the willow & I weep no more
For those gone before there’s still love’s open door
— Ann Helgenberger
When I speakest, do they hearest?
Spring brings warm weather and Easter bonnets,
Shakespeare plays and writing sonnets.
In ninth grade English the students look glum
When I, their teacher, explain curriculum.
As part of the unit on Romeo and Juliet,
The students create their own love sonnet.
As they listen to details of this future task,
Their faces reflect horror they do not mask.
“There’s no way,” they all speak in unison,
“That we can get this assignment done.”
“No problem,” I say. My assurance is firm.
“You have until the end of the term.”
To erase the doubt of their impossible plight,
I offer to write a sonnet that night.
A sonnet for the sonnet
The next day in class we reviewed sonnet design—
The form, the length, and rhyme in each line.
To give students an example, like I said,
I placed my poetic work on the overhead.
We read through the sonnet and to my elation
My students gave me a standing ovation!
The poetry contest I now look toward,
But I’ve already received my greatest reward.
A sonnet for the sonnet
What is this type of poetry you write
That must be exact in lines and in rhyme?
Creative juices and a muse of light
Will help your sonnet to be done on time.
The theme is love of something held so dear—
A person, pet, food, sport or a best friend.
An exact rhyming pattern will appear
With a heroic couplet in the end.
Iambic pentameter in each line
As you count out the ten syllables long.
A graphic will complement it just fine
And twenty more points will to you belong.
If you have yet to start your sonnet,
It’s due on Friday—so get right/write on it!
High alert comes in the mind
only to be stuck in time
Always let ideas flow
—Juan Domingo Davila Alvarez
Language, the eternal
Setting our lingual abilities
in a position to trump
both dolphin and orca,
our speech unites the word
and becomes etched into
our soul, then as it skips
away . . .
we save it, hit send, chisel
glyphs into bedrock, paint, and
draw . . .
our ability to speak, our
willingness to converse, our desire
to not let our words go unheard
and die . . .
our speech is what makes us,
Creative thoughts expressed as
the eternal medium.
Having a voice is a gift use it wisely.
Because somewhere out there, there is someone who can’t use their use his or her voice.
The gift is not is giving to everyone and though the gift can be achieved if you don’t already have it you probably never will.
Without the gift you live in a world of pain a hate but you are trapped with no way out.
So remember if you have your voice it’s a gift so keep it safe.
Speak for the people that have no voice
for they are lost inside themselves.
Speak for the people that have no pride
for they are defenseless against a large ego.
Speak for the forgotten people
for they will disappear without your voice.
Speak for the lush people
for they will fall into a bottle one day.
Speak for the bastards
for their suffering is worse than you can know.
Speak for the crippled people
for they are bound by heavy chains.
Speak for those who have lost their minds
for they will never heal alone.
Speak for the people that have passed on,
for they must always be held in our hearts.
When the creator blew life into the first person,
the creator didn’t accept them with the claws of
a tiger to defend themselves, neither the wings of the birds
for flight, or the fins and gills of the fish for enhanced
swimming, not fur to keep warm in the winter, nor
the enhanced smell, eyesight, or hearing from most predators,
but what he gave to its creation is the power of thought
and speech to communicate with one another. The creator
hadn’t the slightest idea of what destruction that could
be created from its creation not only on to the world
around it but to its own kind.
Why must I be this way?
Why does my mind betray me?
It says I don’t have worth.
It says I can’t go here or there because
of the feelings in my gut.
I wish I could shut this off.
But I can’t.
I never can
And I never will.
How much is there to “speaking”? A simple exchange
of words? No. Beyond the obvious talking, listening,
processing and responding, there are countless parts
of speaking. When someone thinks of a word, they
may think of merely talking, but they never consider what
makes speaking what it is, the tone, the
expression, the urgency or seriousness you
can hear in a person’s voice. These things, the
subconscious actions that define our interactions
are what “speaking” really is.
Speaking with friends
changes your outlook on life
I want to hear you speak
say what’s on your mind
silence is for the weak
that you are able to speak
mean that you always should
speak or voice your thoughts
Man so I just feel tired all the time.
It’s probably why I’ve had so much less of an appetite lately,
which has really been worrying me
since I need to be eating a lot more than I usually do.
I wanna get tested for clinical depression, but I don’t know if that would be considered overkill.
Also it may cost money,
and I don’t wanna put my family more in the hole
than we already are
(at least college wise).
Although considering that I haven’t just not shown up to school for any reason
means I’m probably not clinical problematic.
now just listen
i got a story . . .
it may not be the best one you ever heard
but it’s gotta be told . . .
these are my memories
i never had a dad
cuz my mom the one i had
even though we had a pad
them hard times were bad
having dinner n lunch ram, or cheesy mac
now it’s our time to look back
you never f***ing helped us
you lost the title of a father
so don’t ya bother
i’m 17 f***ing years old
now you want your son back
uhuh it ain’t work like that
i’m not gonna kiss your ass
cause you bought me some shoes, a few hats
it’s what you should have done
when i was younger this was normal
but now i’m seein clear, there is not tomorrow
if you don’t get up, live your life above the sorrow
it’s just gonna build up and stress you out tomorrow
because life can be taken, not borrowed
and once you left my mom, you left me too
gina ellianna, even lilly tried to love you
but f**k it, chaska got my mama
and there ain’t no drama
because he ain’t never walkin’ on her
like her own father
and the man she once loved
so hard to believe i’m your son
my mom’s heart is as delicate as a dove
and you had the nerve to give up
so my family is special
f**k with us we’re mental
and we’re too f***ing smart
to let you tear us apart
we got love and a heart
something you never had
kingston the only one callin’ you dad
because you turned your back on us
back in third grade
when you tore my mama’s heart
pretending to fake love
and then you met kim
you’re no longer a him because she controllin’ you
i’m my own man, that’s somethin’ i’ll never show you
you don’t deserve to be in my life
no invite to the wedding
don’t lay your eyes on my wife
now i’m 18, i something besides child support
my life got flipped when y’all divorced
so lookin’ forward to say the word d.a.d.
f**k you man i got a.d.h.d.
and i guess you f***ing hate me
for bein’ as real as me
cause that’s all i’ll ever be
and now you lookin’ up to me
along with my other haters
that thought i wouldn’t get no paper
well i’m showin’ you up, see you later
f**k your wife man, I hate her
f**k aliyah too, she ain’t even a sister
tried to change my mood, I ain’t even gonna miss her
cheating in the family, goin’ back to your ex mister
you lost your dad, you lost your brother
everybody hate you even your mother
but do you ever stop to wonder
if this is what’s comin’ up from under
cause i’m on the come up
while you bitchin n shovin’ us