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2024 Poetry

FIRST PRIZE

FYI                  by Janice Zerfas

The government wants your dead butterflies as the numbers are declining,

so I read in Nature Conservancy, a one inch ad between

the symptoms of climate change,

and the too frequent occurrence of marine cold spells. A memorial of Lepidoptera

artifacts, sphinx, spanning or skipper as well as boll, corn, or tomato fruit worm.

I would like to know why butterflies count more than reptiles,

if a grass coddling moth is more necessary than a plain bellied or a brown water snake.

What makes one species more worthy than another? Beauty, prettier names, coloration?

Locution? Sonics?

If you will follow my attempt at logic, think of the harmless snake encounters, not venomous

walking along the Paw Paw riverbank; and how the common garter snake with its long yellow-

orange line ribboning black-brown skin hugged itself in the sun.

How it circled into a coiled braid. Believe me, I share with you a phobia of wolf spiders,

mice, and Florida cockroaches.

Who needs Buddha when observing a garter snake sunning, peaceful, calm.

So accepting of its self, its condition. Tempted,

but I did not press it with my garden hoe.

So much bliss in one's body, doing nothing, unlike cabbage, yucca, and foresters. Skittery.

And do not get me going about tent moth caterpillars with their white-webbed glaciers

ruining fruit trees.

And how on earth do we send in our monarch travesties, bubble-wrapped

black-lettered with the location and date of its finding, as if saved for a headstone.

And how do I tell my loved ones when the come home from school, what I did that day?

Oh, I gathered dead insects I found by the roadside, a half-wing from a swallowtail,

a ragged spring azure, blue or metal mark, and I stuck each eye spot in a baggie,

remembering the mile marker.

I remember counting the eyespots as if breath intake, and what it felt like to have none,

recalling the last moments. Such a send off when there is no death rattle!

I tell you: it is the snakes coiled in the river flanking branches nearby coiled as if pottery,

yellow-brown bowls sandbagging in the trees I did not expect to find - to nearly walk into,

eye to eye. Lanterns in the daytime! Re-heated pretzels!

A bowl that made and unmade itself! Holding itself, and then letting go.

Unlike the rigid morphos, luna, flannel moths - unable to bend their wings, adapt, and grow.

I plan to save the one that shed its skin for me.

SECOND PRIZE

Phenology      by Phillip Sterling

Tax day and the snow in its wet overcoat

is almost apologetic, having waited until the last

possible minute to comply, ignoring threats

of liability. Even the flowers trumpeting

in the orchard dismissed the urgency at first,

the daffodils that - like avid government appointees -

took spring at its word, a word we now find

questionable. Daffy as dill pickles says a woman

to the cashier at the garden store, in what one

might assume is her seasonal disorder's attempt

to stay upbeat, in light of the snow's weighty return.

Yet isn't spring the time for uprising? for promise

and possibility? Let us forgive the snow's trespass,

the daffodils their submission. Let us confront 

the garden with shovels and hoes held aloft.

Let the untamed things show us the way.

ARTISTS and POETS were invited

to submit work on the theme:     

                  Grounded   

MANY THANKS

to our 2024 poetry juror Anita Skeen

and to all the participating poets!

THIRD PRIZE 

 Those Who Stay      by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Like deer, we do not dream of somewhere else.

These are our clouds, seasons, our mud. We dream

perfected versions of ponds, ripples, their pulse,

and find something new in each familiar day, even

a reflection of something we missed yesterday or

a hundred times before, that jewel, that half-moon

through the early morning fingers of trees. We adore

the possum who flattens herself, but not too soon,

under the fence. Smell last night's burgers still trapped

in the grill hood. Our leaves squirrels fold into nests.

Our steps with no handrails we know by heart, wrapped

boxwoods, meals with old friends and eloquent bs.

Born in the palm of the Great Spirit's hand, like deer,

we are from this place, this time, content to belong here.

HONORABLE MENTION

Worms and Dandelions          by Nancy Nott

Does she remember

when she was four

finding an earthworm

in our spring garden

carrying it to me and

declaring it her friend?

She put it in a cardboard

jewelry box, lined with felt.

Here, I said, add earth.

It needs earth. Sprinkle water

for it to be happy.

She slept with the box

and in the morning

was alive, but sluggish.

Let's put it back in the soil, I said,

it needs more soil.

She proposed a bigger box,

a glass bowl, the mop bucket.

She carried worm and bucket

for most of two days.

Anytime, I thought, that bucket

will spill and I'll regret saying yes.

Then the dandelions bloomed

all in one day, as they do,

and she became distracted from

bucket and worm

to harvest the blossoms, no stems,

pile them in gold heaps in the lids of two

shoe boxes and conduct them, like a choir.

I returned friend

and bucket of soil

to the compost

while that golden music played.

HONORABLE MENTION

Decorating the Trees      by Penelope Campbell

Late in the afternoon, 

three days before Christmas,

I stand with hands in soapy water and watch  the sky

become alive

with crows.

They fly straight as line drives,

and I imagine their purpose

as they appear forever in my east window,

peppering the sky,

filling all the sky

out the south window.

Silently they land,

a great flock of black silence

in the bare midwinter branches.

The crows of spring,

as they nest in the ravine,

are constant and demanding, 

insistent in their raucous maternity.

But these winter crows are

set like ornaments

amid the bone white limbs of sycamore,

mute against a bruised sky.

Perhaps they travel

this Christmas week

from place to place

and settle 

for a moment

in a tableau of silece

to bring us back

to wonder.

HONORABLE MENTION

Stalking the Holy      by Christine Parks

I take a smooth stone

     only one

from those lining

   the curved streambed.

Brush my fingers

     against the somnolent toad

leave him dreaming there.

     Another stride

gnarled bark fragment

     catches my eye.

Is there room

     in the bulging pack

bearing me down

     thrown off center

or on the altar I build

     heaped with salvaged

keepsakes from my 

     diurnal wanderings? Beside

the path a cairn erected of rock

    and fossil to an unnamable deity.

Found bits, sea glass and shells

     strewn at random around

earth-encrusted offering

     breath and blood

carving channels across

     its rough surfaces to

placate, entreat - One lit

     match ignites enough

incense to bear the weight 

     of prayer spiraling upward

out and back limning these

     icons of longing and desire.

HONORABLE MENTION

 

Pond      by Gail Martin

When he tells me that water birds with stock this little lake with fish, carrying sticky

eggs on their feathers, their feet, I'm unsure what to believe.  I want to trust people without flinching but my faith has been swindled.  The day the woman with the white cane grazed my thigh in the cookie aisle, I wondered if she was really blind. Skepticism runs in my family like arthritis and homesickness.  And yet I take it hard when my brother says he doesn't believe in God. Why? Stranger things than belief- frogs shed their skin and eat it. Leopard urine smells like warm popcorn. Lack of evidence does not disprove a theory. I can choose to imagine fish eggs nomadic and drifting through the air like pearls or opals.  Darters, Shiners, Sunfish - pure  fairy tale. Poetry. I can bank on that contraption, reliable ropes and pulleys lowering mystery toward us.

More Poetry
 We have created a beautiful book that includes all 2024 poems submitted as well as pictures of the art from the exhibit.  The book is available at the church.  
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