Editor’s note: What follows are this year’s winning poems, as selected by our anonymous judge (now revealed as Laura Adrian).

First place – By Dave Healy

“What we took.”

We took what she dished up:

bowls of Malt-O-Meal and Cream of Wheat

peanut butter and honey in homemade buns

glasses of mixed milk — half powdered, half whole.

We took the shirts that came off her Singer:

Minnesota Fabrics married to Simplicity.

We took the words she read each night:

Eeyore and Piglet and Owl

Thidwick and Horton and Yertle.

We took the best years of our lives

and then we took our leave.

We took and took but never gave

until all we had to give was thanks.


Second place – By Alice Duggan

“As has become my habit”

I wander into the hallway in my pale nightgown, in my bare feet,

and here comes a woman crossing the night, in her blue scrubs,

pushing her cart — and she says Can I help you?

This question I think on deeply. Could she help? My bed won’t comply,

and I’ve exhausted the video game of head up, head down,

where should the center of me lie,

and she is beautiful with her black hair. My bed, I try.

A mess, she says.

She untangles the snarl of my blankets. She covers me,

and my verbs all change tense. I went, I was, out like a light.

Breakfast came gently, the way it does after rest.

Whoever you are, whoever you are — 

you covered me, and I slept.


Third place – By Bonnie Horgos

“The orchid, the tree, and the whittler: An ode to time”

The oak tree succumbed to blight

The same year my dad surrendered to cancer

Two towering forces in my life

Buckling under the weight of illness

Mere months apart.

All that’s left where the tree once grew

Is a pile of woodchips ground down from the stump.

An avid whittler, my dad always loved woodchips

Collecting at his feet

The sign of a prolific day.

The hour my dad died, my orchid plant,

Which lay dormant through countless moves,

Produced three small buds

Reaching towards the sun,

As if to say, “There is life here yet.”

I preserved the orchid blooms,

And the wood chips protect the earth.

Each minute that passes since my dad died
    and the oak tree fell,

I know their love still blooms somewhere,

Moment by moment.


Honorable mention – Katharine Kline

“Lines from a daughter”

You may find yourself, one day, on a bench

in a park where you once pulled a sled

calling your father who has been ill

and assuring him that all will be well

even though you both know

it is only a prayer.

You may find yourself, one day, walking

on sidewalks you know by heart

stopping to touch a tree which has grown

stronger and larger

while you yourself have slowed — 

your light steps

now heavy.

You may find yourself, one day, returning

to a dream you had

and finding it has drifted

and dispersed and is now

only a wisp of white in a smaller sky.

And if you find yourself here,

remember this:

you don’t breathe in this world

you breathe with this world

and those sidewalks you know by heart:

they will carry you home.

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