A Little Relief by David James
The sky this morning
won't give up
The trees stand perfectly still, leaves up,
praying for it. The flowers
bow down in the grayness
do what birds always do.
The air feels wet
as if the molecules could
spontaneously burst into droplets.
We've let the asparagus
grow wild, a good two feet
over the fence now.
My tomato plants have wilted,
despite my steady watering.
Only the fuchsia, secure
in the shade, continues to bloom,
its red cherry flowers popping
In a few weeks, God willing,
I'll celebrate my first full year
into the second half of a century
on this burning planet.
I'm trying to do my part, sitting
under the tree, apples dropping around me,
praying, like the rest of the world
for a little relief,
some rain, a breeze, a sweet kiss on my neck,
some light leading us
toward another chance.
Creation by Elizabeth Kerlikowske
The stinkbug's reconnaissance around a ceiling light
sounds like an idea hatching, circling the bright notion
before settling on its rim to cogitate, armor snug, ranked
with tightfitting plates and exact dots, opposite of its haphazard flight,
loopy and unpredictable. Whatever works. The stinkbug circles the room again.
This time even the cats notice and follow its wind-up noise with their liquid eyes:
its woozy flight, its settling for a moment before deciding the wall's not the place,
hall closet not quite right, idea not realized enough to direct solid flight
to any sort of conclusion. Anything could be the terminus of this fancy.
It's impossible to predict the place or next inkling the stinkbug will choose
to explore in its stolid nondisclosure. Disappear into the sofa fabric?
Cogito ergo sun light on the idea, brighter as it moves through
curated rooms collecting evidence of history in dust, future riding the air.
THIRD PRIZE (tie)
How to Survive Your Own Death by Deborah Gang
Think about it every night before falling asleep.
Therapists call it desensitization. Discover this
doesn't work. You can't get used to the bee as it
stings or the fever as it rises. Now try thinking
about climate change and all that you'll escape.
If you're skilled at this, you can talk yourself
out of grandchildren. Muse on living too long
too lonely. You'll accost people at the grocery until
someone is willing to chat. Imagine
how they will look at you
None of these ideas will work either.
Instead, notice the sun through the window
as it blankets the cat. Return to watch him reposition.
See the shadow of leaves in the wind as if choreographed
to Begin the Beguine. Recall your son's dry humor.
Last night he had a good line about everybody trying out
new headphones. A pandemic joke. He started out
as less than bits of almost nothing. Life!
Watch the man across the room with his own
nighttime dread. When he thinks you aren't looking,
he kisses the dog he thought he didn't want and
calls her sweetheart. Text your second son, the one
you weren't sure you wanted (the vomiting).
He is best on text. (More phone calls would be nice.)
You and he volley while the other two spectate.
We can't keep up, they say, and you will think
be here now be here now be here now.
We have created a book that includes all 2022 poems submitted as well as pictures of the art from the exhibit. The book is available at the church.
THIRD PRIZE (tie)
Words Frequently Confused: Destitute, Desuetude
by Phillip Sterling
The Full Hunter's Moon is exhausted, having
spent the better part of a long night exchanging animosity with our neighbor's security light
that insists on appropriating our queen-sized
comforter like a feverish child, no matter what
we do, or could have done. Beyond the window
the stark trees take sides, as do the shadows
of the trees inside, as do you, in your worry
for the colicky horse, and me, my censure of
the kitten's unkind hunger. --All brought
to light in suffrage and accusation, played out
as dark comedy, night's corruption. And to
what end? Why here? Why tonight? that
the moon must remind us to be attentive to it,
its magnitude, its insistence that we should be
grateful it's not to some dark shore the tide
has taken us in our small white boat, and where,
come daylight, we may find ourselves unwelcome.
Mercury Vapor Lights on Oversized Poles by Nancy Hoy Nott
John Joe Cooney was the first to get one.
The fear-filled fifties had spread into the
rural reaches of our little Illinois town.
For Safety the next farmer claimed
when he planted one by the end of his barn
on an enormous pole strong enough to
hold a tractor aloft, the light bright enough
to make the stars a memory.
Then, of course, the lights became a contest,
strung across the county like some giant's
crooked runway, one blue-toned light bleeding
into the next, a dot-to-dot of constant day.
Safety may have started this glowing bloom,
but competition was where it landed.
Whose light is brighter? Who has two?
Which pole is the tallest? Who ran wiring out to the
east end of the cornfield to score the win?
Now, maybe the corn felt safe, the racoons reassured,
but migrating birds were lost between night and day.
My mother, normally a rule-follower,
reached her limit. The neighbor's light spoiled our sky,
stole our moon, and made shadows slink
inside our bedrooms at night. She considered sending
my sisters and me out to see if the light could be sabotaged.
Is there a wire we can cut? A stone we could throw?
We were thrilled to have such a wicked assignment
but she caught herself, reminded us about right and wrong,
retracted her wish, bought room-darkening shades.
We lost the pure and perfect dark of our Illinois nights
to the never-ending glare of mercury vapor lights.
ARTISTS and POETS were invited
to submit work on the theme:
A Certain Slant of Light
to our 2022 poetry juror Susan Blackwell Ramsey,
and to all the participating poets!