“Ashes to Ashes,” a poem by St. Anthony Park writer Susan Warde, is the winner of the 2016 Park Bugle poetry contest.

Our judge, poet LeRoy Sorenson of St. Paul, said Warde’s poem “is an excellent twist on the Cinderella story.”

“An ideal outcome is not always perfection,” Sorenson writes. “In an unusual turn of affairs, Cinderella misses some aspects of her previous life. As the poet writes: ‘. . . a brown bird who lavishes limpid notes on her . . . ,’ The ache in those words tells it all.”

This is the second time Warde has won the Bugle contest. She won first place in 2013 for her poem “The Seven Months that Aren’t Winter.”

Sorenson chose St. Anthony Park writer Garvin Davenport’s “Winter’s Edge” as first runner-up because of the poem’s “excellent rhythm” and Como Park writer Nancy White’s “Missing Friends” as second runner-up.

Warde will receive the first-place prize of $50.

The prompt for this year’s contest was the word “privilege.” Contestants were not required to use the word in their work.

We have printed the three top poems here, along with a poem by Sorenson, a prolific writer whose was a participant in the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series and the Foreword program and was a semi-finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, given annually by the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry. His work has appeared in a number of journals, and in February his book Forty Miles North of Nowhere was published by Main Street Rag of North Carolina. (You can find the book at mainstreetragbookstore.com and learn more about Sorenson at leroysorensonauthor.com.)

You can read all entries below. We’ve included a poem by our judge, LeRoy Sorenson.

 

Ashes to Ashes

They’re born with wit and beauty, with virtue,

pluck, and fortitude, but somewhere in between

once-upon-a-time and happily-ever-after

they run out of luck: the poisoned apple

of a jealous queen, a thirteenth fairy scorned,

a father who takes a spiteful second wife.

But righteousness prevails in fairy tales.

 

Take the case of Cinderella, who rose one day

from the ashes of her servitude. The story’s end

was only her beginning. Breakfast now comes

on a golden tray with an unfurled lily, grown

in the castle hothouse, by her morning tea.

The glass slippers are chipped and drab but she

has a slew of jeweled shoes jumbled in her closets

and gowns galore. And the prince is very ardent,

when he isn’t hunting or tending to the kingdom.

 

Do you think the lass might sometimes mourn

her maiden days? Not the cold stones before

the hearth, of course, nor the scalding wash

that so hurt her tiny hands. Still, perhaps the girl

pines now and then for the fragrant dirt of the kitchen

garden with its serried lines of fledgling peas. Perhaps

she yearns for the modest brown bird who lavished

limpid notes on her from the knurled plum tree.

Susan Warde

 

Winter’s Edge

As first flurries start to fall, I head out back

To pick the year’s last raspberries from the garden patch.

Against the bushes’ mottled leaves

Icy flakes patter softly like distant snare drums

As I carefully fold back the sun-scalded bridal net

That kept the summer birds at bay.

 

We’ve had some frost already.

The oak leaves fell three weeks ago.

Night comes earlier and earlier.

All Saints has been celebrated, and candles lit

Against the darkness of our forgetfulness.

 

The drooping canes, distant cousins to the princely rose,

Provide last sanctuary as I bend to tug each berry from its stem.

My harvest is a cupful and barely that,

But she will put them on her shredded wheat with sugar

And smile at me for my thoughtfulness.

 

My task complete, I retrace old steps across the withered lawn

Toward house and wife and kitchen fire.

Watching tiny flakes of snow etch themselves

Against my jacket sleeve before they too disappear.

I smile myself—and muse unspoken thanks

 

That canes and grass and rose will bloom again come spring—

That even at this icy edge of winter,

No one has been forgotten.

Garvin Davenport

 

Missing Friends

I can’t erase you from my address book

and I don’t want a new book without your name

in its alphabetical order.

 

I can’t throw away the expired jar of jam you

gave me two years ago for Christmas

even though pantry shelf real estate is at a

premium and there is a can of tomato soup calling for space.

 

The wicker furniture you sold me, at the

most ridiculous low price ever, sits proudly in the sun porch.

It needs paint but, I can’t seem to find a new color.

 

The books your husband called me to come and get at your request

are packed in cardboard boxes—

I have the same books…now, I have a second set.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that—and I can’t donate them to charity.

 

Today I went to send out an email to “our group”—there was your name,

I couldn’t erase it, so I didn’t send the memo—I made someone else do it.

 

The scarf you gave me three years ago, still gets raves whenever

I wear it. No one knows it’s filled with spilled tears that come on suddenly

especially on gray days—because you’re not here for our 3:00 cup of tea and gossip.

 

I am mad at you because you left lightly, without luggage—no tangible pieces to weigh you down. And here I am—

I can’t even escape your laughter which lingers heavy in the stillness

of Saturday mornings when we would go shopping.

Nancy P. White

 

Daze

No hills. Unchecked wind brings

words of the dead in a language

just north of English. Farms

scattered like matchsticks. Crows

circle miles away. On the farms,

houses stripped to shallow

gray, bare chapels hard earned.

They demand worship in coin unknown

to the young. Everyday magic consigned

to the pig sty. How can anyone measure

love here? On the plains, words

appear on the horizon, jump aboard gale—

a cheap ride to the next folly. Leave

the speakers dazed at their disappearance.

In some places, the dead and the living

are afterthoughts. Not here. Farmers

cling to what they know, who they

know. Their faces hard set against

prairie glare, the prayer on the edge

of their tongues poised for the last amen.

LeRoy Sorenson

 

Because I Can

I walk the streets,

do you?

I walk the streets without fear,

do you?

I read the signs and speak the tongue,

do you?

I have places to go and people to see,

do you?

I follow those who have gone before me,

do you?

I do not feel alone in my journey,

do you?

 

Take my hand . . .

 

I see light at the end of the tunnel,

do you?

David Lee

 

Circle of Life

Old and young, alike in so many ways

(But not always,

Except for wishing that it weren’t so):

Vulnerable, dependent, needy.

 

Privileged to be a part of your lives,

I appreciate your letting me in.

—E. Lee

I know it all

I know it all from the deck to the hall,

from the spring to the string to every old thing,

from a mouse to a house to a little baby blouse,

from a chair to my hair and everywhere.

—Dalila Hansen, age 7

 

Ideas for time

A day goes by

And then another,

And another

Time passes on

And so do we.

And we smile a bit?

It’s good for the soul

yes, our friends are

not far away.

Can we reach them?

Quite often, not

A note or call of cheer

helps a lot, take time

to do the little things,

Each day:

Arrange some stems

Re-organize a tabletop

Read a few chapters

in a book put aside.

Can we get from here to there?

Good, we’re lucky.

Can we change the outdoor scenery?

No, but we can accept and

enjoy what’s God’s plan;

To be kind to others, some

that may grate our minds

Accept the day as it comes.

Relax, don’t rush

the chores will get done.

There is tomorrow

Save some tasks for each day.

It’s a way to play

the game of the living today.

—Paul Hedlund

 

On the Ball—In St. Paul

Blacks have suffered enough.

We should honor them

Now and forever

And turn our collective attention

to Mother Nature’s cries

Before we all lose our

PRIVILEGE

To be on the ball forever.

—Cam Cardelli

Prolonged

Do you live twice as long when a poet?

 

When bloodstone red tulips rise expectantly

from brown humus,

before petals, curved as canoes, plummet,

poreless porcelain, cupping the damp floor of the garden.

 

As the slant of shadow intensifies

at the edge of lawn,

a brown rabbit hunched, stretches, scratching,

green-gold light shining through

filaments of ears.

 

And there are birds on a wire,

faces all turned the same way,

Wind sharpened on their beaks.

 

Here breezes make palm trees

shake sassy skirts——-hula-dancing girls;

Gardenias smell, heavy as a hangover, in humidity.

White clouds scud by impenetrable blue,

move iceberg feet.

 

I can’t let go any of it;

even words flattened

to paper squirm, like living anole lizards,

cookie-cuttered on a sunny wall.

 

How grateful I must be

for this peacock fan of image,

these bright dreams before a long sleep.

Marilynne Thomas Walton

 

Royalty

The man sitting alone in the restaurant

Had he asked for service for one

Attention to be paid only him

 

And, if so, had the wait staff cleared the restaurant

Quickly disbursing confused diners

Giving him the privacy he desired

 

Or had he come in at the wrong hour

One of those in-between-sittings times

 

Or did the locals know something about this place

This stranger could not know until after eating

 

Whatever the reason

He sat like a king receiving the services

A man of his status deserved

 

Some years earlier, after a glorious concert in Amsterdam,

My wife and I stopped at a restaurant

Only to see the staff closing down for the evening

As we turned to leave, the owner escorted us back inside

The staff returned to their appointed stations

As we two received their elegant and unhurried care

The only customers to be seen

 

Everyone should be a king or queen at least for one meal

Everyone should sit tall like the solitary man

Like the couple enthralled earlier with music

Filled in due course with hospitality flavored food

Flushed with regal embarrassment

—Ted Bowman

 

[no title]

Watching the sun come up past

the tree line,

Feeling the wind rush through

my hair,

The chill of a winter

day with cold snow flakes

landing on my cheeks,

And the taste of bitter

hot coffee from an

old Thermos bottle.

—Mark Hansen

 

I Know Men

I know men

who suffocate feeling,

who have closed the door

on a certain aspect or purpose or person

in their life.

 

This (to me) is poverty

for it means that part of one’s experience

is forever denied,

like saying:

“I will not look at the clouds on that side of the sky.”

 

Although I sometimes feel

skeletal fingers of cynicism

I pray they do not

pierce my skin.

—Timothy Gadban

 

On Being Asked by the Barista if I’d like Whipped Cream.

(In the style of Dean Young’s “On Being Asked by a Student if he Should Ask Out Some Girl”)

I say Uhhh…

because it’s early. Too early

for the war between tastebuds

and size 8 jeans.

I say, Maybe. It’s one of those days.

The steamer screams

and the clocks keep count.

I say again, to stall for a few seconds,

It’s still early. The baby stretch marks

tucked into

my Levis nag and images of Olympic

snowboard chicks hurling their beautiful, muffin-top-free

bodies down mountains, hair whipping

perfectly curled behind. I say sugar is good- too good.

I say National Geographic thinks we’re addicted.

I remember reading that there used

to be sugar slaves.

Now there are just obese kids- too poor

for kale or quinoa- but not

kool aid. I say the injustice.

I say Michelle Obama’s just move

campaign. I say it’s too early.

But I see the can on the counter.

And the mocha would look so pretty.

Chocolate drizzled on top.

So I say, Hell yes. It’s one of those days.

At least I brought my own mug.

— Sarah Clark

Being Here, Not There

I try to imagine being there,

always on guard,

afraid of a bomb or attack

if I drive to the market

where scent of smoke and garbage

mingles with pomegranate and grapes

or go for a walk

where shattered cement and rubble speak

of fallen friends and family–

the inevitable fallout of war

 

I drive my streets without a care

slowed only by occasional

traffic cones,

bulldozers, back hoes,

long red lights.

 

When I park in the lot for groceries

my worries are small:

have I mislaid my keys

forgotten my wallet

left my list at home?

What luck of the toss

has placed me here?

—Susan Corey Everson

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