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 inside 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.
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.
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.
THE WALLS WE BUILD
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?
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 Everyday This wall Identity But still We are We.
— Laura Phillips-Mao
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
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!!
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
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.
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
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 beyond a wall, a fence, alarmed while some, with the cruelty of springtime, yell hallelujahs at their plight.
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 handprint 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.
No roof nor floor required. Only the definition of space, the desire. Walls Languages here, people speaking there. Communities bound. Understanding or no meaning. Walls As addiction surrounds, fortifications of family, friends, all break down. Left alone, isolated. Walls The mind inside, such a beautiful place. Held are sons and daughters, lost. Memories erased. Walls This world, this life, is a difficult place. We live we learn and all make mistakes. Walls
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
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 fiesta. 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 rifles if you saw us as people you wouldn’t need 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
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!
Among the Hmong
You were the refugees that I taught You had been displaced replaced misplaced erased You were new to the land and my landscape was new to me I felt displaced replaced misplaced erased 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.