|Winners of the 2007 Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest|
|News/Features - Literature|
|Wednesday, 02 May 2007 02:30|
The Midwest Writing Center has announced the winners of the 34th Annual Mississippi Valley Poetry Contest, and the River Cities' Reader, as one of the contest's sponsors, is pleased to publish selected entries. Other sponsors of the contest were the Sam's Club Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council (a state agency).
The awards will be presented at 7 p.m. on May 19 at the Butterworth Center in Moline.
First Grand Prize: Barbara Schweitzer; Smithfield, Rhode Island; "Not Least of All."
Second Grand Prize: Brooks Carver; Canton, Illinois; "The Road."
Adult General. First Place: Carol Carpenter; Livonia, Michigan; "The Italian Restaurant on the Corner." Second Place: Faye Williams Jones; North Little Rock, Arkansas; "In the Mirror." Third Place: Dr. Marian Shapiro; Lexington, Massachusetts; "Quaker Meeting on the Concord River."
Grade School. Winner: Tanner Schull; Aledo, Illinois; "My Very First Day." Honorable Mention: Ally Engle; Seaton, Illinois; "Doodle Time."
Middle School. Winner: Carly Haywood; Ottawa, Illinois; "Twas the Night Before Summer." Honorable Mention: James D. Keller; Brockwell, Arkansas; "The Song."
High School. Winner: Aaron Awkerman; Riverdale, Iowa; "When I See Life." Honorable Mention: Lindsey Maxon; Arlington, Texas; "Coy."
Ethnic. Winner: Mikki Mendelsohn; Naperville, Illinois; "The Man in the Glass Booth." Honorable Mention: Catherine Moran; Little Rock, Arkansas; "Working on Myself."
Humorous. Winner: David Hungate; Moline; "Pony." Honorable Mention: Elizabeth A. Hall; Moline; "Poor Bunny Foo Foo."
Rhyming. Winner: Joe Worthey; Sun City West, Arizona; "Where Blue Columbines Grow." Honorable Mention: Edward Hartman; Pipestem, West Virginia; "Where His Grandfather Walked."
Religious. Winner: Catherine Moran; Little Rock, Arkansas; "The Proof of Holiness." Honorable Mention: Francis Klein; Glen Ridge, New Jersey; "Seder."
Seniors. Winner: Carol Carpenter; Livonia, Michigan; "The Painter with Rheumatoid Arthritis." Honorable Mention: William Perry; Rock Island; "Senior Alert."
Haiku. Winner: Jerry Hardesty; Brierfield, Alabama. Honorable Mention: Cynda Strong; Springfield, Illinois.
Mississippi Valley. Winner: David McMillan; Moline; "Hello, River!" Honorable Mention: Joe Chambers; Davenport; "Command & Control."
Not Least of All
by Barbara Schweizer
By the time I got back to the squirrel,
The crows had found it too, a form now
Headless - the soft matter must be caviar
They pick first through the eyes, I imagine
Retina on the tongue, rods and cones and
surprise of warmth. Their fortuitous feast
took place behind closed doors, a quick repast
stolen while I locked up the cat to get
the shovel to give the squirrel a grave.
I don't' begrudge them their one-course banquet
as I feed the second to maple roots
counting thirty-three crows flitting overhead,
noisy neighbors, curators, connoisseurs
of backyard mayhem, their shrieks unsurpassed
except by the cat's quiet murderings.
Inside on the windowsill, the killer oversees
the burial, mild-eyed, patient like damp earth,
receiving like crows. All seem to know what
comes goes, all is forgivable, nothing is least:
a squirrel's defeat, a cat's feat, crows' feast.
The Road, 1932
by Brooks Carver
Dirty face with dark, hollow eyes,
Looked no more than about twelve.
The breeze brought his sour smell
Blowing through the screen door.
Baggy pants shredded, knees out,
In desperate need of mending.
He wanted work, but food mostly.
Janey made him wash at the well
Then fed him cornbread and cold milk.
The boy finished off the afternoon
Helping Sam cut fence posts.
She could see from the porch
That his ax strokes were weak,
He spoke not a word but please,
A little more, thank you, and all right.
Then fell asleep in his empty pie plate.
Sam carried him to the porch
Wrapped him in an old blanket and
A worn pair of overalls for a pillow.
Next morning, the porch was empty.
Boy, blanket and overalls
Gone west in the dawn light.
Janey stared down the road.
Somewhere a mamma is
Grieving for her boy, she said.
I hope nobody steals the
Dollar I put in his pocket.
The Italian Restaurant on the Corner
by Carol Carpenter
Some neighbors say
the owner torched his own restaurant
one bitter December night when
his till did not balance
and the weatherman predicted
a long, hard cold spell.
That night fell below zero as I recall
and the stars hung in the sky like icicles.
I heard the sirens, saw the red flash
of fire engines from my bedroom window.
Flames licked the moon with many tongues
while water failed to drown its thirst.
When the moon fell from the sky,
even firefighters dodged the sparks
as the restaurant roof caved in and cans
of tomato sauce exploded. Tin shrapnel
struck the owner who stood in the ruins,
arms raised over his head, cursing.
For days, the restaurant kept shedding
pieces of itself. I found a fork, a shingle
a charred board and a restroom sign
in the rubble all coated with ice and snow
a place off limits where neighbors walked
their dogs searching for evidence.
These neighbors desire a crime to solve
while I embrace the mystery of ice.
In the Mirror
by Faye Williams Jones
I look at a familiar face
like a clown's blank mask
and begin the makeup ritual.
connect the dots one hair at a time
over outlined eyes
once Elizabeth Taylor thick
on matte foundation-
skin's shade of healthy glow,
and rosy lips
curved in a hint of a smile.
I don the wig,
short pixie cut,
shake and pat
the chestnut strands
without a hint of
hidden gray-white wisps.
With ringed fingers
add simple silver earrings
reflecting light for living thoughts.
Fasten the birthday necklace around my neck
for the finish to daily ritual.
A blouse in favorite fuchsia
over slim blue slacks,
and flats with pointed toes
completes the look.
In elegant leisure,
I laugh and walk with you
to lunch under the rose arbor
we planted last year.
As from a favorite script,
We play our parts
With days of practice.
Today the face designed
to look like mine
must be convincing.
Our fingers touch
as we pretend
the chemo does not flow.
Quaker Meeting on the Concord River
by Marian Shapiro
box turtle splashes, startled
by us deer sweeping across thistled
blueback dragonfly cloudwisps
silence of heron
sipping at the marshside stretching sipping
silence silence all
the way to the hollow where the ducks
are resting where
geese V-form overhead white
you and I sky wind
My Very First Day
by Tanner Schull
I went to school
Having the brain of a fool,
on my very first day.
I tried to do the Pledge of Allegiance...
But didn't know what to say.
And during lunch
I was in the girly bunch,
the center of attention.
I mouthed off-
For a trip to detention.
I didn't spell
During the spelling class.
Popular girls came to me.
Boy! All they did was sass.
The bus ride back
My back was whacked
I claimed the bully's favorite spot.
Now, if you think school is cool...
Trust me...it's not.
by Ally Engle
I doodled a dragon
it's not worth braggin'
I doodled some ducks
look, it sucks.
I doodled a face
What a disgrace.
I doodled a dress
What a mess.
Look, I doodled a line
Wow, it looks fine.
Twas the Night Before Summer
by Carly Haywood
Twas the night before summer, when all through the school,
Not a student was stirring, no preschoolers drooled.
The book bags were hung in the basements without care,
In hopes that vacation soon would be there.
The students were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of swimming pools danced in their heads.
And my sisters in their pj's and I in my slippers,
Talked excitedly about vacation in whispers.
When down the stairs there arose such a clatter,
We sprang to our feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the door we flew like a flash,
Threw open the door and down the stairs I did dash.
I looked out the window and saw new fallen dew,
The first day of summer was the best and I knew.
When what to my wandering eyes should appear,
A vase had fallen on my old school work and most of it had teared.
With a little old laugh I quickly had masked,
I knew in a moment I should help with this task!
More rapid than eagles I tore and I shredded,
Every paper and grade my nails imbedded.
Come little sister Casey! And big sister Bethany!
Help me rip these papers until there aren't any!
Papers flying toward the porch!
Papers chucked at the wall!
Now rip away! Rip away! Rip away all!
So then to my upstairs my feet oh they flew,
With an arm full of papers and report cards too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard down the stairs,
The creaking and squeaking of my parent's room's door.
As I dropped my papers and was turning around,
Through the door my mother had come with a bound.
She was dressed in warm pj's from her head to her feet,
They were covered in wrinkles because her dreams weren't so sweet.
A pile of blankets she had flung on her back,
She looked like a runaway with her blankets like a sack.
Her eyes were dropped, she looked very sleepy,
Her cheeks had big hand marks that were red like a cherry.
Her mouth was put in a very small frown,
Her hair was as fuzzy as fluffy chick down.
A small purple toothbrush she held tight in her teeth,
And the toothpaste encircled her mouth like a wreath.
She had a long face and a thin little belly,
Her nightcap shook when she laughed like a bowl full of jelly.
She was tired and messy, but when it was daylight she was a hold old elf,
I laughed when I saw her in spite of myself.
A wink of her eye and a turn of her head,
Soon helped me to know I had nothing to dread.
She spoke not a word but went straight to her work,
Picking up all the paper scraps and turned with a jerk.
And laying her finger on top of her lips,
She went back to her bedroom with her hand on her hip.
I jumped in the air and gave a shout and a whistle,
And ran back to my bed like the down of a thistle.
But I did exclaim as I snuggled up tight,
MERRY SUMMER TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!!
by James D. Keller
The song is a graceful tune
The beat is like the beat of a woodpecker
Slamming against a tree.
The sound is like the wind blowing through leaves
The instruments are joyous horns
The singer is an artist and
The microphone is his brush.
The C.D. is like a Frisbee floating in the wind.
The song is a graceful tune.
When I See Life
by Aaron Awkerman
Most, when they think of life, see a bird in flight.
Others who dwell upon it think of a rainbow at its height.
When I pause to ponder the concept, I think of none of that.
What I see, are two fronts locked in combat.
Thoughts dart from one cloud to the next as lightening.
Below the flashes, I see death and birth falling as rain.
In between the droplets I can feel the sparks, processes of the brain.
Human minds pounding the heavens like deep thunder.
The booming shatters the earth and creation asunder.
Trees sprout from the ground because of the downpour.
Animals join the rain as stinging hail.
Along with the painful ice came the winds of the sea as a gale.
Its blistering collection of fish and coral hides beneath the coast.
The black clouds of pain and extinction are indeed a massive host.
Yes, even the snow keeps the secret of birds soaring.
A tornado is what I see when I think of Sequoias and redwoods,
The hurricane of a forest hides Terra's goods.
Truly I'll tell you what is the portrait of all life.
It is not a perfect picture lacking strife.
When I see life, I see a storm over the sea.
by Lindsey Maxon
Slinking around underwater
I see your colors but not your shape
Vibrant golds, reds, blacks,
Bur not more than that yet.
Why do you lurk underwater?
Swimming away when one
Tries to catch you?
I wish I understood you
And why you swim the way you do
You have beautiful colors
So would not your shape be so too?
Why don't you swim near the surface?
So I know what I'm getting myself into?
Should I go underwater?
Try to catch you at your own game?
Can you see me coming?
If you do will you swim away again?
Maybe I'll put out a line for you
Hook you, pull you out of the water
But will I like finally seeing
What I've been following
Lying on the ground, gasping for air
It's not quite a dream, come true, to see you're
Just a koi.
Brighter than the rest, but still...
So I'll let you lurk underwater
And admire your colors from downstream
The Man in the Glass Booth
by Mikki Mendelsohn
After WWII, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann fled from Austria and made his way to Argentina where he lived under the name Ricardo Klement. In May 1960, Israeli Security Service agents seized Eichmann in Argentina and took him to Jerusalem for trial in an Israeli court. Eichmann testified from a bulletproof glass booth.
He sat there mute
headphones attached like skin
looking old, frail
innocence beyond reality
A world chosen to escape
not for those he tortured-
barely survived with souls intact,
if not bodies or minds
not fully healed
Testimony only a week,
exposé of human experience
seemed more myth than reality,
even translators faltered.
People cried, scenes unveiled,
my parents glued their backsides
to uncomfortable chairs
trying to empathize, telling
me to "quiet down"
when I didn't understand.
Everything made legal
by this new State,
though famous people balked.
at night my family debated
in voices racked with tension
back and forth
English and Yiddish
fragments of both
I shook my head
side to side
a tennis match
in black and white
good and evil
"Shut up," said dad,
"that's not the point!"
on and on
not letting up
"Can you imagine defending him?" my mother said.
"You don't understand," said dad.
Legitimizes killing him, I thought
to my adolescent self.
the man sat through it all
adjusting his headphones.
He didn't look like a monster.
Working on Myself
by Catherine Moran
My son told me he is dating a woman
from another religion,
from another race.
I have always professed kindness
how easy it is to just profess
because that skims along the surface
like broken icicles skittering over slick roofs.
Now I am confronted
That small room inside of my shell
will have to be opened
and swept clean of any dusty hang-ups.
It's time not only for open windows,
But also for open eyes.
In the city park stands a bronze statue
of a man and a boy looking at a world globe.
At the base
"Yours are the only arms that
Can encircle the earth."
Hundreds walk by it each day
like fretting ducks with eyes on the ground.
I have drawn charcoal pictures of hands
opened and closed,
rough and smooth.
The spirit of a person is revealed
by what he uses to touch the edge of the world.
I will be ready
to welcome her into my space.
An outstretched hand and heart
may be the best start
by David Hungate
My daughter had a pony that ran away,
On a cold and rainy September day.
I've got more temper than anyone needs,
And I was chasing him in waist high weeds.
He managed to stay just beyond my reach.
He knew there was a lesson I wanted to teach.
He finally stopped and did what I said.
By that time I was wishing him dead.
I was mad and wet and chilled to the bone.
I said, come on sucker, I'm riding home.
I jumped on his muddy, wet, slippery back.
If not for him, I'd still be in the sack.
He took off like we were running a race.
I slid around his neck and stared at his face.
I said whoa, please, whoa, you son of a B-
I swear to this day that he was laughing at me.
At home, I found a board about ten feet long.
I had blood in my eyes and was ready but wrong.
I tried hard to kill him as he jumped away.
He enjoyed every minute of our sadistic play.
I ended up exhausted and laying in the mud.
With about as much class as Elmer Fudd.
I lay there a while and laughed at myself.
Took the board in the barn and put in on a shelf.
When I think of that pony and our rotten day,
I guess he taught me some things in a way.
Poor Bunny Foo Foo
by Elizabeth A. Hall
Poor Bunny Foo Foo
Carcass on the road
Tasty rotten morsels
Breakfast for the crows.
Poor Bunny Foo Foo
Flapjack on the street
Soaked in bloody syrup
For the scavengers to eat.
Poor Bunny Foo Foo
I'm sorry you are dead.
But now I need a toothpick
You're stuck between my tread.
Where Blue Columbines Grow
by Joe Worthey
High in the mountains where cold winds blow,
Alpine meadows, covered deep with snow,
The hush of winter, but all lovers know,
With the coming of spring, Blue Columbines grow.
Beneath a blanket, of soft white snow,
Flowers in slumber...waiting...for winter to go.
Love will awake and flowers will show,
The colors of spring, when Blue Columbines grow.
Our young love blossomed, a long time ago,
We dream of high mountains and meadows aglow,
When our journey has ended, like the melting of snow,
We wish to return, where Blue Columbines grow.
Between Estes Park and Glen Haven please go,
High in the mountains, where spring breezes blow,
Gently, lay our ashes, upon the soft white snow,
Our love will continue, where Blue Columbines grow.
Forever each spring, after the melting of snow,
Lovers will thrill, with the meadows aglow.
On the steep hillsides, the mountains will show,
Our love is eternal, where Blue Columbines grow.
Where His Grandfather Walked
by Edward Hartman
High on the mountain in an old pine grove
The soft wind whispers as it gently flows
Whispering the secrets of years gone by
That made an ancient pine quiver and sigh
And ask the house that is standing near
Where are the children who used to play here
They went to the city the old house replied
And twenty years ago the last one died
They buried him here, said the old apple tree
I shade his grave as you can see
He's been forgotten by all his friends
And this lonely grave his children don't attend
My rooms are empty the grieving house said
And no one sleeps in any of my beds
I don't know how long I can stand this way
Before I start to crumble and decay
I need loving hands to brush on paint and stain
To save my walls from the driving rain
I pray that one of his grandchildren
Will remember me and come again
To till the ground and plant the seed
To grow the good his family will need
Then on my porches young girls will brush their hair
And boys slide down by banisters smoothed by wear
Once again I'll hear a mother's lullaby
Bring gentle sleep to a baby's blue eyes
Children laughing like old times I'll hear
There's nothing on earth that brings more cheer
Then another shaggy pine quite old in years
Said house old friend you make me weep sad tears
And dream in vain of precious times long past
Times we treasured but knew they couldn't last
Now like me it's time your dreams must stop
For soon we both will fall to the ground and rot
I know you like to recall those good old times
But you can't relive them again except in rhymes
Fantasy and self-deceit just make the end
That much harder to take my poor old friend
Be still old pine and listen - for while you talked
I heard a man speaking where once his grandfather walked.
The Proof of Holiness
by Catherine Moran
I deserved a vision.
At nine years old
I had heard all those marvelous religion stories
tilted to inspire eager young souls.
I quietly closed the bedroom door,
then knelt beside my bed with face upturned
just like those angelic figures
in stained-glass windows at church.
They always looked up and then the light
came streaming down.
In the stories there was a voice
telling you something holy or
maybe even God right there talking to you.
So I listened.
The scene was set,
and I was so holy and ready.
the remembrance of that perfect scene recalled
a long-forgotten child of innocence
with an open face
that could never be reached.
Though the world seemed to be a lot sinful
and a little unforgiving,
it never proved too horrible to bear.
Yet, I wish for that vision if only to prove
some degree of worthiness.
I stand now,
stained with the colors of the world,
but still waiting at a glassed window
for God to speak.
by Francis Klein
Good lord, I have wasted so many days
And nights in my animal like need,
Trying to write the perfect sentence,
Imprisoned by the letters that define me.
Surely there must be a better way to live,
The grid of sidestreets making a straighter path,
Directing me towards open rivers
That surround my crowded, smoggy island.
It is now over three thousand years
Since we were led out of the land of Egypt,
And still my wanderings have not ended.
Let me read from a better book of life
This year, spring me from my winter cages,
Sit next to me at seder like a prophet.
The Painter with Rheumatoid Arthritis
by Carol Carpenter
Some days he cannot
grasp a fine-bristled brush
long enough to mix
purple or curve a back
on canvas. His fingers curl
into fists. His knuckles bulge
as if they were magnolia buds
plump with promise. He will paint
the color of pain, of petals
tinged with pink at the center
where hope perches
silent as he dips his fingers
in hot water, waits for warmth,
for the blood flow that fuels his vision.
His rheumatoid arthritis,
flares up, blossoms into red dahlias
erupting from green stalks. This garden
rustles, speaks to the painter who has
no insurance, no money for medication,
no desire to dull pain that whips
his hands into frenzied brush strokes
when he creates the texture of his life:
a whole world where morning glories climb
cyclone fences and trumpet his blue, blue name.
by William Perry
When I'm older and growing decrepit
I won't gaze grimly into eternity: I'll
Pretend life is interminable. Some may
Squander consciousness and walk the malls
Aimlessly and wobble on the avenues, but
I plan to stand tall and straight as the
Yaquina Lighthouse never forgetting that
Deep breathing expels the demons.
I shall be a strike force of One. A Zen
Prince in a Brooks Brothers suit watching
Women with interest in their clinging summer
Dresses as I take a cop to a low fat lunch.
I'll be against rhinestone suits. CEOs
Pay in any amount whatsoever and foolhardy
Moonshots. Then I'll build the USS Constitution
In a seltzer bottle, strike out against witches,
And maybe write the Great American Novel with
37 major characters and a grandiose ending -
Three ways to glorification.
by Jerri Hardesty
Swelling point of dew
Reflects the surrounding world
Planet in a drop
by Cynda Strong
Drizzling April morn
Ominous rolling thunder
by David McMillan
"Hello, river!" I exclaim
as we round the bend in the road
and climb the gentle curve
slowing into Albany.
My wife laughs
but we share the same
sense of awe and wonder
every time we see it,
spreading out, and out some more
to the tree-lined shore
on the Iowa side.
Who first was amazed
by the sheer majesty of it,
by its steely sparkle,
by its surprising coldness, and
by its quiet, but immeasurable
How many herons, egrets, and cranes
have rooked their young
in its marshy backwaters?
How many eagles and pelicans
have harvested shad
from its swift, rocky rapids?
And who can count
the soft-shelled turtles that have
gently laid clutches of eggs
in the banks of the Big Muddy?
Innumerable trains have crossed it
endless strings of barges have traversed it
from its head in the wilds of Minnesota
to the fabled Louisiana delta,
but I always say hello whenever I see it,
as though it were the very first time-
because, for me, it always is.
They say you can't step
in the same river twice,
and that's the way I see it too.
As always changing,
like the wild and beautiful
living thing it is,
and always will be.
"Hello, river", I say,
"good to see you again,
for the first time."
Command and Control
by Joe Chambers
The tugboat's engines rumble louder and faster.
Water churns beneath its stern
Then rolls upriver in three-foot waves.
Against the rapid current fifteen barges,
Each containing fifteen railroad cars of grain,
Slow, stop, then reverse, direction while they pivot to slice a larger angle
Through the rose-hued Mississippi River sunset mirror.
Like the muddy water past the tugboat's streamlined hull
The captain's orders flow through his crew.
His boat drifts with the current
Only when that suits his charted course.
Considering the interplay of forces,
Wind speed and direction, strength of current,
The captain computes when and where and how
To apply the thrust of his diesel powered screws.
Through hours with its barges the tugboat floated,
Gently nudged them downhill with the current
Until this instant when it pulls uphill,
Slows, then reverses and pivots their massive load.
Angled on their new course, the barges are allowed
To slip into the lock where they will be moored
While preparations for the next downriver stage
Swirl across the tugboat deck.
Events and people pull my life downriver,
My will and strength exerted frugally
As by a skillful tugboat captain
Against forces that would compel me.
To keep my course I must determine
When to assert control,
When best to yield
And meander in the current's drift
Downhill, unchecked but not unheedingly
Until the time to slow, reverse, and turn,
Then moor briefly to prepare
For the next downriver stage
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