Read all the 2017 poetry contest entries here


Walls have a lot of meaning to me, and I find

that the ones in my head, erected


by the poet who really can’t quite comprehend

the difference between the real and pretend

are just like the stone ones I see day and night

a constant reminder of what I can’t quite

put behind me,

It’s hard to be right,

to really find me

to get some insight

So what do I do, with all of the thoughts?

My walls keep them out

and keep in what I’ve got

I put up walls like excuses, empty promises unheard

We portray them as a necessity, but those lines can be blurred.

They can be the difference between rainbows and coal

To be ourselves we have to be whole

We don’t need a wall to tell who belongs

We don’t need a wall to tell right from the wrong

What we need is a wall to tear down and unite us

And tearing down walls can show how to fight this

United we stand and divided we fall

We’re stronger together, let’s give life our all.

So will these be published with names on them? I'd rather mine be anonymous if that's an option.





Brick by brick we built our wall

Keep your fears and tears away from us

We do not wish to know you

We never wanted to know you

We passed by but never said hello

We missed each other conveniently

My dreams came before yours

My children were better than yours

The invisible separation between us

Widened further as we grew up

We never had reasons why we built it

It is too hard to shatter it to ground

One day my life changed forever

Life flipped upside down and under

The wall that i built stood in our way

Prevented you from.getting to me

I built that silly wall to keep you away

Watched my life getting blown away

I regret my wall still today

Lets tear it down one day.

—Thusalee Jose



How Walls Change Lives

I wrote about it a few years ago:

“Not many visitors,” I said.

“Maybe the surroundings scare them;

Make them think about their own decline,

Which they would rather not consider. . .”

It was about my husband, who had

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

Then, some years later, I fell, hitting

My head against a wall, sustaining

A sub-dural hematoma, which needed

Surgery. “No more 24/7 caregiving,”

They had told me. So, now, my husband

Was in a Care Center.

“How’s your husband?” people would

Query. I would grit my teeth to keep from

Screaming. I wanted so very much to shout,

“(Just) come and see!”

“Not many visitors,” I wrote in sadness.

“Maybe the surroundings scare them;

Make them think about their own decline,

Which they would rather not consider. . .”

Why don’t people visit friends in Care Centers?

Yes, there are walls—but that shouldn’t keep

Them out. Those walls have doors!

 —Jean M. Larson



Cimitero delle Porte Sante

We'd been searching for the tomb

of Carlo Lorenzini when another grave

distracted us, a sepulcher surmounted

by life-size effigies of two young girls:

the first-deceased was veiled and stoic;

the newly dead reached out to her with ardent arms.

We read their names and dates

(Emma, then Anna, both perished 1891).

We pitied their parents and wondered

at their loss before we wandered on,

while an insistent voice, amplified

but muffled, announced

the closing of the cemetery.

The towering exit grill was locked.

Better a sacrilege than incarceration,

we said, and clambered up

a monument so we could reach the top

of the stone wall crowned

by a further barrier,

an iron balustrade.

Tossing our coats below,

we hiked up our skirts,

flung first one leg

then the other

over the railing

and hung, hesitant,

before dropping

to the pavement

of the empty piazza,

leaving to their sleep the dead,

and the morose angels watching over them.

San Miniato had climbed the hill

that we were now descending.

Returning to his hermitage, beheaded

but not headless (he'd held it, like an offering,

in outstretched hands), his detached

eyes had guided his uncertain

steps toward the summit. The blazing

façade of his church, spot lit

for the long December night,

was at our backs

as we started down

the many steps,

past the rose garden,

past the cat sanctuary

with its dwarf houses

and its incongruous

chickens etching the dirt,

through the gate

in the old city ramparts

to the roiling center, bright

in the gathering dark.

Everything was comical.

We laughed and laughed:

at window manikins in their stylish clothes,

tired tourists consulting maps,

the elderly who picked their way

along the cobbled sidewalks,

young couples spoiling their offspring

with a late gelato,

eager dogs investigating

others of their kind.

And swirling swarms of starlings--

how funny they were!--

parting and reforming

like a black lava lamp in the cobalt sky.

Back home we uncorked at once

the Brunello we'd been saving

and toasted one another, drunk

before the first glass was downed.

—Susan Warde


The Old Place

I remember the cellar hole,

darkly gaping, toothless as an old bear's mouth.

Where the farmhouse used to be.

Incongruous to see lilacs, bridal wreath, leaning

where no walls are.

The bats now free-falling, unobserved,

far above in the roofless night sky.

Here once a woman sat far out on the lawn

in a painted kitchen chair

to see where the bats flew out at dusk.

But she never learned.

Yet how strange it seemed.

One couldn't help staring

down into the feral hole.

And there was something there---                                        

an almost full-grown tree;

a tree, maybe a poplar, stood

in the middle staring speechlessly upward.

And then a mystery.

Why someone had placed

a fairy-circle of stones around

the base of the trunk of the

living tree in the debris of

the old cellar hole

It was scary,

Yet hard to turn away

from the cosseted tree,

growing as if it had lived

in the house and pushed

its walls away.

But, turn to the abandoned

old orchard, overgrown, yet spare,

as gnarled old people turn.

Bittersweet crab apples fallen like hail;

no one made them into jelly

squeezed in a stained jelly bag anymore.

The plums dark-wine puce,

smell of flesh, bursting over-ripe aubergine skins.

In bent grasses where once orange hens

had scratched and cackled.

Hiding their secret nests of brown eggs.

Now only wasps swarmed,

coveting their rotting bounty.

I leave forever behind

the wayward lost jungle

of orange tiger lilies,

crouched in their wild beauty protecting

their smudgy-mouthed sticks of charcoal.

And follow the rutted road away,

when the old place becomes

just that.

—Marilyn Walton




Some are invisible.

Some are tall.

Some are whimsical.

Some are small.

They can be made of brick.

They can be made of glass.

They may be geometric.

They may say no trespass.

But what is the purpose?

To keep out or in?

Do they connect by bridges that are wordless?

Or does an icy coldness await within?

In the end, will us they protect?

Or will us they disconnect?

—Jaclyn Barnes



Everyday she grows

A little bit taller

A little bit stronger

A little bit further

Away from me.

She is of me,

She is me,

But less so


This wall


But still

We are


— Laura Phillips-Mao


Seen, Unseen

Stretching as far as the I can see

Block upon block, suffused with the fear of the known

And more, trepidation of the unknown

The Other do not look or speak like me

Founded in Holy righteousness, buttressed by panic

Created but not earned

Course upon course, rhythm unbroken

What is seen reflects a mere fraction of the blueprint etched in my heart

Stopping only to refresh my anxiety

Only in exhaustion do I study my creation

Enraptured by the shades of darkness, created

What will grow on this sunless plain

It matters not….

            I am rich, you are poor--envy

            I am white, you are not--rancor

            I am sated, you go hungry--famine

            I am virile, you are impotent--servility

            I am righteous, you are evil--contempt

Finally, my creation surrounds me….

            I am obscure, you are radiant-mercy

—Dave Lee



Maybes fall,

like leaves from a tree.

Down to the earth,

and die.

— L. R. Quist






Walls, everywhere I look walls

We have choices

Climb, go over

Dig, go under

Cut, go thru

Peek, go around

Walls keep us safe

Walls don’t define us

Walls don’t deter us

Let us be free!!

Let us be free!!

—Jill Tead



Marked Places

As children                                                                

We colored inside the lines                                     

Black was black and white was white                                

Invisible markers segregated neighborhoods

But eyes saw

Drivers knew territories

The currency of that time                           

Robbed neighbors of neighbors                             


Now older

I’ve met someone from   there

She could have been my childhood playmate

We had much in common

Love of reading, tennis, families

It is hard to fathom the lines

Of separated, distinct childhoods

That robbed us of each other.

Marking us for life

Two grandparents

Eagerly show pictures of grand-children

Who behave in once unimaginable ways

Coloring outside the lines of our childhood

Invisible markers still there

Yet, living stories of hope

Now at ease with black and white

—Ted Bowman



Sorrows of life and death

The sorrows of life drip

down the walls of his soul.

Until that part of him disappears

with no way to make him whole.

The happiness that once filled him

dead and lost.

He looks out the window

as it is covered in frost.

She is asleep forever

in her grave.

When she died

his happiness had caved.

Her life was not

Very long.

She died singing

Her favorite song.

The sorrows of death

Consume him more Everyday.

He closes his eyes

And his soul fades away.

—Mikaylah Groves



The earth was moving.

She wanted it to stop.

No further—it’s gone too far, she said.

Things we value are getting buried. Defaced. Unrecognizable.

We need a wall, he offered.

A wall will hold back the tide.

A wall will preserve all that is good and holy.

It will keep the good in, and the bad out.

Yes, a wall is what we need.

I can build you a wall, he offered.

A great wall it will be!

Together they built the wall, a grand edifice.

It required sacrifice.

Repairs on their home would have to wait.

The doctor and dentist would have to wait.

The children’s college fund would have to wait.

Their elderly parents had their turn already, they can wait.

The neighbor on need would have to wait. Easier now,

that they have disappeared behind the wall.

At last, they thought: life will be good again.

—Stanley F. Tead



containing our lives inch by inch

blood takes its precious perambulation

within the boundaries of each breath

blossoming experience into being

in the sublime machine we call a body

unconscious of our cellular communities

from glorious organs swathed in viscera

to the small precise beauties of our minutiae

now our full beings are stupefied with horror

witnessing a totalitarian numbskull

whose heartlessness

nobody seems able to restrain

this outrageous lawlessness

leaves democracy cringing

despite a million cries for action

leveled at our gutless representatives

we beg all of you to hear your intima

gushing with the extravagant possibility

that every one of us

is really worth something

—Trina Porte


The Alarm

Startled awake by dreams

and a color

loud as a siren

beckoning me,

I step outside.

Forsythia's brash tone

yells hallelujahs

by the stony wall.

And I, locked in winter's ice,

shiver and emerge, urged on

by fanfare

and a noisy new world.

I can no longer sleep

as immigrants wait


a wall, a fence,


while some,

with the cruelty of springtime,

yell hallelujahs at their plight.

—Marsha Foss


Food Delivery

Another cloudy day in January

when the sun, too tired,

let the clouds swathe her in a warm woolen blanket and

rest with tea and a book.

That was the day I first saw the glass—

or rather—

my face smushed up against it and

left a greasy trail of spit my coat sleeve wiped away,

stopping before it obscured a


left by someone smaller than me,

who must have stood on the other side.

Even though they searched,

my hands found no edge, just a smooth shell

encasing the dull lawn of a house and

whoever lived inside.

I squished my nose against the frozen pane,

searched and

banged for someone to let me through—the

food I had brought them on the concrete.

No one. Only

cracked paint,

hinges missing a door, a

pile of Mountain Dew bottles and a

haze of smoke.

Later, on the couch, with

tea and a blanket and drooping eyes, I

feel in prickles on my neck:

someone had been watching me.

Someone had been at the glass,

hand on mine,

waiting to be seen.

—Rachel Lee



No roof nor floor required. Only the definition of space, the desire.


Languages here, people speaking there. Communities bound. Understanding or no meaning.


As addiction surrounds, fortifications of family, friends, all break down. Left alone, isolated.


The mind inside, such a beautiful place. Held are sons and daughters, lost. Memories erased.


This world, this life, is a difficult place. We live we learn and all make mistakes.


—Andrew LaBarre

El Otro Lado

My familia—

we’re from the other side: el otro lado.

We weren’t after

El Dorado just my Dad

in Colorado, a job,

a little safety. He went first, afraid

and thirsty, says the reefer

didn’t help at all. We others left

soon after. I was four.

We walked, ran or they hauled
  1. It was frio, I recall, at night were stars and sand—
and serpientes! We hid by day.

My English pretty

strong—fact it’s def—I’m good

in school. What’s messed: I prefer

to speak espanish. Miss

mi abuelita and the rest, want to see a real


My Dad he’s a roofer

now, little brother’s in

futbol. Still, those Lucifers

from ICE they got us stressed.

I’d go back

or back and forth.

You know, Estados Unidos,

if only

Mexico was equal

if there weren’t so many


if you saw us as people

you wouldn’t


no wall.

— Mimi Jennings


Ode to Donald

Ah Trump, that Golden Boy

Always ready willing and able

stuffed with force

Still likes to crush

Insatiable learner

With even more output to boot

Keeping the middle in flux

To meet the middle

Sees God eye-to-eye

To better adore this country

As much as his own essece

And yet, how naïve, yet prescient

To know we were all waiting

For someone like you

Do us proud, Mr. President,

Do us proud

Only one request—

A bona fide Climate Czar

—Cam Cardelli



Written in honor of my mother, Lois after her death from cancer…
 One eye is wet
 One eye is dry
 One hand is warm

One hand is cold
 One breath is sighed
 One breath is calmed
 One heart is still
 One heart goes on
 One body is mourning
 One body stands tall
 One mind is confused
 One mind is clear
 The horns begin to blow
 And the walls come tumbling down!

—Nancy Sabin


Among the Hmong

You were the refugees that I taught

            You had been





You were new to the land

and my landscape was new to me

            I felt





Little did you know I was also

a refugee in my heart.

One learns survival skills

on many levels

You also taught me.

Together we went forward

to new homes.

—Mary Walker

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