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.”
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
On the night
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
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
placid and demure
spring pardons melancholy
and greets winter’s drift
— Kate Mabel, St. Anthony Park
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
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
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
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.
That working in this way with children,
And their parents,
Was radical social justice.
Pride and appreciation was voiced
For the marks she made.
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
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
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
Not just for beauty.
Not just for flight.
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
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 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
Rewire my brain
Challenging and withdrawing
—Karen Fillmore Nave, Lauderdale
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
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
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
It is but a few minutes or hours
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
And as the sun goes down
and the sky turns red,
the wind gains speed.
In the prairie, the world is
The stillness is no more.
—Teresa Ortiz, Ivanhoe, Minn.
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
our thoughts rush upstream to be born again.
Who would have thought our paths would
circle the globe?
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
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:
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
Low, green hostas fling
up a summer surpise—spikes
of lavender blooms.
turned yellow and crouched down days
before winter came.
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