As part of its yearlong "Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility, & Compassion" program, the Bettendorf Public Library held a water-themed essay, poetry, photography, and songwriting contest. Several winners will perform their entries at the "Quad-City Water Lore" event on Monday, November 5, at 7 p.m. in the Bettendorf Room at the library (2950 Learning Campus Drive). A reception begins at 6:30 p.m.
They will be joined by Bucktown Revue emcee Scott Tunnicliff, Rock Island Lines creator Roald Tweet with Chris Dunn, former Quad Cities poet laureate Dick Stahl, turtle expert Mik Holgersson, riverboat pilot Harry "Duke" Pelton, and Quad-City Times columnist Alma Gaul. Musical entertainment will include the St. Ambrose Bee Sharp men's a cappella ensemble, the Quad-City Ukelele Club, Dwayne Hodges, and Jon Eric.
Thanks to the Bettendorf Public Library for its permission to allow us to publish the winners below.
Essay, Youth (Judge: Lirim Neziroski, Black Hawk College): "Water in Motion," by Jake Byrne
Water is often seen for sustaining life, use in foods and beverages, and many other important things water brings us that we cannot live without. But few view water as something of beauty, an object of wonder. One example of water's special effects is the ripple.
It was early morning, at a small pond in Iowa. Nature was awakening. The water was flowing smoothly. Everything worked out perfectly, until a fat frog named Frank decided to take a dip. As his gut entered the water, he brought about one of the most unruly forms of aquatic motion. A rebel ripple called Gill. Gill was very rambunctious and disturbed the peaceful pond. As the animals complained, Gill only spread out further. A squirrel was observing his mirror image reflected off the surface of the water. Gill branched out and blurred the squirrel's reflection. Gill rippled further and further across the pond, until all of a sudden, he vanished. All the animals watched in silence. Frank took a step. Once again Gill appeared, this time with a smaller effect. He did not spread as far, and just as suddenly disappeared.
Rhonda the rabbit and her friend began complaining. She had been painting a beautiful seascape of her home until Gill came along. "It's just so peaceful here, and he always has to ruin that." Most of the animals nodded in agreement. Frank splashed over to the gathering. He slipped and slid, flinging pebbles and mud everywhere. Every little bit that broke through the water brought about Gill. The frog's body crated a giant ripple. Gill grew and grew until he spanned the entire pond, pushing everything near the surface. The lily pads were shoved and the water boatman capsized. As Gill expanded to the banks, the animals could make out his appearance. He had a wavy body and dark sunglasses. He reached across the pond in a series of circles. His sunglasses looked back and forth at the animals on shore, taking it in. The animals all watched as the ripple's inner circles dissipated at the shoreline. And then the last traces of Gill were gone.
Seymour the skunk and Benny the badger joined the scene with the two rabbits, the squirrel, and the frog. The rabbits were narrow-minded and focused on how unruly Gill was. Sammy the squirrel was only troubled by the fact that Gill disrupted his philosophic reflecting. Seymour and Benny pondered about what they had seen of Gill from across the pond. They had seen something more in Gill. Something of a natural beauty, in the visual effect of a ripple. All Frank cared about was cleaning his muddy belly. The gathering went abruptly from all deep in thought to a loud argument. Benny boomed over the noise and convinced all the animals that no matter how out of place, unruly, or disruptive, Gill the ripple is one of water's natural beauties.
Essay, Adult (Judge: Michael Hustedde, St. Ambrose University): "Breathe a River," by Roger Pavey
The stone skim-jacked over misty water, disappearing in the foggy ribbon of heaven hugging the river, slicing an undefined space where water began and sky ended with a silence befitting the unseasonable November morning. The boy made a bird sound, or at least what he thought the whistling birds said the last time he remembered listening to them, but the only answer was the gentle eddying of the waves at his feet.
Again, no answer. He was alone, apart from every living thing except the river and the fog wrapped around him. The boy stretched his fingers and tried to grab the wet air, marveling how something so thick seemed to not exist at all.
The coat of fog hid the paper and plastic leavings of careless men, things the boy knew were there. Old tires, faded beer cans, fishing lines, bait containers, and a million other things were within a throw of one of those stones, but today the river rose up and coated them, secreting them away, and the boy smiled to himself. A giggle fell from his lips, the kind of laughter a toddler makes when seeing a birthday present, or an ice cream cone, the type of giggle he would be embarrassed about in front of his friends.
He bent down and fetched another rock from the cold water lapping at his shoes and remembered his teachers telling him about recycling and air pollution, but not about protecting the rivers and oceans, even though his biology teacher once told him the human body is more than 50 percent water. That morning he would have believed 100 percent.
His fingers turned the stone in his hand, over and again. He contemplated all the river could do. It sustained life, was an aquatic highway, defined his sleepy little town, provided recreation, and had the power to destroy lives and property. It was a beast both beautiful and fearsome.
The boy let loose the rock, skim-jacking it the way his father showed him, then closed his eyes and breathed the river, wishing he could stay all day and watch the sun climb the sky and burn away the trail of fog as the morning matured with brilliance on the bare trees.
But he couldn't stay here unseen, throwing stones. Already he risked being late, risked drawing a lecture from his old man. "If you don't pay attention in school, how will you ever learn anything?"
The river taught him.
Poetry, Youth (Judge: Ellen Tsagaris, Kaplan University): "A Silent Witness," by Danielle Baresel
The floating city glimmered
With lights as bright as Rome
To witness man's great triumph
Is why I love my Atlantic home.
We live in an age of wonders
Where men with steel and rod
Can made the oceans highways
And play the role of God.
The luxury liner is the vehicle of dreams
To sail the waves
And glory days
Of the Atlantic Stream.
A ship so grand has never
Been built by the hands of man
Nature itself seems jealous
Of Sir Andrew's greatest plan.
The music from the ship
Fills the frigid April night
The music warms my heart of ice
Like the vessel's shining light.
What can be said of those on board?
Life's grandest tapestry.
Paupers, princes, millionaires
My icy eyes do see.
Captain Smith, the mariner,
Like a Viking lord of old
Directs the godly craft
With his countenance so bold.
And here I float
A witness to mankind's victory
The wintry benumbed attestor
Of this moment of history.
It is my privilege to observe
The ponderous ship's entreaties.
I only desire to make myself known
And state a humble greeting.
I'll move myself an inch or two
The Atlantic will not care
Those on board will see my size
And pass by as they declare
"Our watercraft is powerful
As the titans of the pit
Yet the icebergs of the ocean
Are far mightier than it."
To hear these words of wonder
Of admiration and of awe
Would melt my April heart
And begin my springtime thaw.
I move myself but an inch or two
So they will see me on the deck.
I hope Captain Astor and his wife
Will make a double check!
Sheer ecstasy, Atlantic!
Euphoria, the sea!
The titan vessel rubs up
And gives some of it to me!
The seaworthy craft felt it right
To brush my icy walls
Bequeath to me some iron plates
And leave me with no gall.
I thank you, titan of the sea,
For the charity you have shown.
For as a berg of ice
No kindness have I known.
To you aboard this worthy craft
I bid you the fondest sleep.
Rest as still as the Atlantic
Calm and still and deep.
Poetry, Adult (Judge: John McBride, retired): "Devil's Throat," by Salvatore Marici
On the Argentina and Brazil border,
flowing water in the Iguazu River
slides over smooth rocks
and on other paths
brushes slippery moss
attached to boulders
before the endless gulp drops
into the Devil's mouth.
In his throat currents merge.
The relentless surge pounds,
churns his stomach. Walls echo crashes
to a deafen gurgle.
His breath sprays froth
and lifts tourists' wet hair
like their nations' flags in stiff winds.
I turn to the plateau's right flank
across the horseshoe formation
and see angels who wear white robes
mount the cascade. They charge.
Heads touch toes, one after another.
Each warrior smashes
fallen comrades' feathery wings.
Splattered water suspends itself in rainbows.
Songwriting, Youth (Judge: Bill Campbell, St. Ambrose University): Kellen Myers, "Sweet Mississippi"
Songwriting, Adult (Judge: Bill Campbell, St. Ambrose University):
Ellis Kell, "River Song: An Apology" (performed by Whoozdads?)
Nick Vasquez, "Treadin' Water"