2022 Poetry

FIRST PRIZE

A Little Relief                        by David James

The sky this morning

won't give up

its rain.

The trees stand perfectly still, leaves up,

praying for it.  The flowers

bow down in the grayness

while birds

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

like parachutes.

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.

SECOND PRIZE

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.

More poetry:

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.

HONORABLE MENTION

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  

MANY THANKS

to our 2022 poetry juror Susan Blackwell Ramsey,

and to all the participating poets!