Poetry contest winners

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,

before longing.

—John Krumberger

Squirrel Talk

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

Sour Salt

“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.”

“Another round?”

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—”

“No, don’t—”

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

to me

Consume, or

Be consumed.

Two options, and eyes

On me waiting for

The choice:

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

Grown old,

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.

For once.

And guess what?

We don’t want any pity.

Who am I,

They ask,

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):


They’re Me.

—Medha Faust-Nagar


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

An understanding,

A promise.

There is but one speed.

Day and night.

One definite direction.

Straight ahead.

We hope.



To move towards our neighbor

shining a sparkler.

Creating light.


—Kari Hovey


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.

—Pam Johnson


 Body Speak

     body down

              are you listening?

     body  up

              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

     slow down

     get home safely

     breath in the good air

—Susan Hardman


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


Como Neighbors

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,


—Timothy Young 


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!

—Sally Worku


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.

Tell me.

                                    (I shake my head)

You’re not okay?

                                    (I shake my head)

You’re okay?

                                    (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.

—Kate Mabel

 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.

—Susan Warde



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

—Priscilla Thomas



He wanted to speak Spanish

To meet a senorita

Black hair and

Midnight eyes

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

—Mark Johanson

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

Finally         Ready

The man died the next day

—Ted Bowman

 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.

—Michael Penfield

Standing Still

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….

—Lynn Sager


The Grudge

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.

—Lori Fligge


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?

— Prologue—

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

— Epilogue—

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!

—Dona Hofstede



High alert comes in the mind

only to be stuck in time

Always let ideas flow

—Juan Domingo Davila Alvarez


Speak Poem

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.

—Anders Villand



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.

—Christian Farazza 


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.

—Erik Altenhoffen


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.

—Ira Mason


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.

—Allie Utke


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.

—Oscar Ewing-Fancy



Speaking with friends

changes your outlook on life

—Jordan Hanson-Flores


I want to hear you speak

say what’s on your mind

silence is for the weak

—Torey Flint-Kjellgren


The fact

that you are able to speak

does not

mean that you always should

speak or voice your thoughts

—Jack Skagen


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.

—Johnny Barrett



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

—Dominick Garcia

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