VillageSoup Community Poetry Contest Entries

Vote for your favorite poem

Sep 08, 2017

We received the following 22 poems in response to our local poetry contest, which we are running as media sponsor of the Millay Arts & Poetry Festival (Sept. 7, 8 and 9 in Rockland). We hope you enjoy reading the following poem submissions. When you are done, vote for your favorite, either with the ballot in The Courier-Gazette and Camden Herald or online at knox.villagesoup.com (you can click to vote below). We received poems from Knox, Lincoln and Waldo counties.

The five poems receiving the most votes will be sent on to our panel of community judges, who will decide on the winners. The first-place winner in each category will receive a new Kindle Fire. Second- and third-place winners will receive free subscriptions to VillageSoup online or the Courier Publications newspaper of their choice.

They are published without the authors' names for now so that voting will not be influenced by anything other than the poetry itself. We will publish the poems online later with the authors' names.

 

Adult Category


The Cold

You knew it was coming

Still the cold arrives in its stiletto boots

In the swirl of its frosty cigarette

A complete surprise, there on the

Doorstep first thing one late November

Morning

 

Insinuating itself into the house,

Touching the apple spice doughnut and

Cooling the newly topped-off coffee

 

Ah, this

 

Now the nights will get even lonelier

Shoulders hunch, gooseflesh rises, winds

Criss-cross whistling at night like so many

Lost ghosts

 

You make yourself smaller, older,

Put less icy lotion on your skin and

Brush your teeth faster. Hurry to bed

Alone, cocooned in holiday fleece, thinking

About a hot water bottle, or another

Body warm between the flannel sheets

Next to you –

 

How your body and this hypothetical one

Would outheat a nuclear power plant and

Shine like a nursery for fresh suns

 

You sleep deep. You wake sharp.

There is more cooking and eating than

Normal. Your fingernails hold the tang of

The onions you chopped and the chocolate

You melted. Your hair smells like woodsmoke.

 

You will sleep again like a fetus, hands curled

To your mouth. You want to invite everyone

You have ever known, and everyone you have

Never known, inside to eat soup.

 

The cold, with its cigarette and boots, is amused.

 

 

I Come from Gardens

Like a seed from the dark earth

I come already knowing the language:

Germinate, propagate, blossom, harvest.

Taste the soil. Face the sun.

I come from gardens.

 

I come from garden remedies and garden rumors.

Where dragons snap, spiders flower, foxes glove,

and love lies bleeding.

There are balms, sages, loosestrife.

Infants under cabbage leaves.

I come from storied gardens.

 

I come with instruments and tools.

Strings, sticks, arbors, painted trellises.

Implements that dig, cut, level and train.

I clean beds, nourish, and blanket.

I come from caring gardens.

 

I come from garden weeds, spies, and thieves.

Children stolen in the night.

Broken promises, betrayals.

Illness and blight.

I come from damaged gardens.

 

I come from the dogwood at the edge of my grandmother’s garden,

root-torn and withered in a pile of debris.

The one she cradled within her apron

weeping to the neighbor about property lines.

I come from grieving gardens.

 

I come from hard rain that punishes, soft mist that comforts.

I come from dry spells when every day begins

with the same parched hope.

 

I come from dreams and deaths in gardens.

Like a seed planted in the dark earth,

I come to grow.

 

 

The Long Road

Life is so focused when we are young and surrounded

Trying to learn and understand who we are

Working to meet people and choosing our way of living

Deciding what to do as we want, when others don’t like us

Finding friends and growing to learn to work in our life

As young adults, we experience many new challenges

In our change to finding a place to live on our own

And soon to meet someone to live with and share our love

Growing a loving family with children for our future life

Helping them grow with our support and experience

 

As parents develop the confidence of their family

Their fathers and mothers get older with new problems

From terrible health of cancer disease and heart failure

To needing more money to take care of their lives

And helping their children overcome financial problems

As the sad days draw near and give us sad hearts

We want our family safe without suffering pain,

But there are no easy ways to keep them happy and sane

Our only way is to share our love from our heart

To keep them feeling good and smiling as they depart.

 

 

Untitled

I wear my volatility like a badge of honor.

Everyone can see it. I sulk and sit, no one knows why especially not me.

Like the vitreous membrane clouded by cataracts,

my atmosphere makes the blasé spring day more dispiriting and dark.

 

Logic encourages me to express my deep sense of loss and inadequacy.

Consequences be damned.

There is no way to rationalize water under the bridge;

it continues to flow like a polluted stream into a bottomless ditch.

 

Dispassionate, standing on the distant horizon,

Faraway Future glances in my direction.

I see her then don’t, squint and look away;

eyesight is already failing.

What impenetrable barrier blocks even my most clever advances?

 

I don’t know what I believe, so how could I be misled?

Neptune and Diana dance at night on the graves of my ancestors.

Vacation is over, yet here I sit.

David and Gillian sleuth softly on the flat screen.

Their dedication reminds me of someone I used to be.

I lie to myself, pretend I am a writer,

like I have something to say.

Where do I go from here?

Africa?

 

The Murder of Chicken Stephens

Chicken Stephens killed by Ku Klux Klansmen.

Crime was helping Negroes vote for changes.

Death in Caswell County Courthouse storeroom

While the Senators were meeting upstairs.

 

Noosed neck, stabbed vein, blood spilled, body on woodpile.

Confederate Captain John Lea went free

Along with all the men in that storeroom.

The year was eighteen hundred seventy.

 

How long, O Lord, do we practice evil

And say, nothing is wrong on God’s green earth?

Wars wax, wars wane; still we in fear fight on.

Hate multiplies; love is in short supply.

 

Senator Stephens, please forgive us all.

This is my Amos cry; and Martin’s too:

“But let justice roll on like a river,

righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

 

The Return

Jungle sounds pound in pointed predator ears

hot breath swirls round white teeth.

She sighs at her muddy boots and drops

a heavy pack khaki canvassed,

brown leather strapped.

Savoring the lost weight,

she, with a small click, dispels anxiousness

with a little light, but only some.

Everything looks different in the dark—

tints sinister, stretches the senses.

Pausing, she listens hard into silence thick

suppressing those imaginative extremes

that roll the fog of waking dreams.

Lost in the ink of night,

stalking past her straining eyes,

black fur shines over primal muscle primed

watching eyes dilate, claws dig

spring and kill transmutes to trot and purr.

“Bandidoooo,” she sings into the night

scooping up her missed friend.

“Let’s make sure the house is safe

before we go to bed.”

 

Pause

Layer

upon layer

upon layer

dulls me

to the

plea

 

The filament -

the strand

of the real

calls

to be

teased out

of my

musty

crusty

nest

 

Sure Sighted

Trillium and Icelandic poppies tower over cattails

along a stream as though proportion means

nothing, perspective little, though he could

build an entire house from a blueprint drawn

inside his head. He used a child’s paint box—

 

eight flat eggs of color—and a kitchen saucer

for mixing. White water lilies float. Violets hold

their own name. No evidence of soldier here—

gas mask, helmet, dog tags, maps of France—

The Great War hidden in a chest in the attic.

 

A path winds down to the water. Cardinal flowers

bloom in stalks of red butterflies. Trunks cast

shadows. The paper’s borders cut off iris, fallen

limbs, stands of purple clover so we’ll believe

the woods go on forever. Across his street

 

towering white pines let down strands of light

to the needled floor, where Mourning Cloaks

lit and fluttered. And far in, salamanders hid

under cool stones while water walkers skimmed

a shaded pool. Birds flocked to his feeders.

 

Peaches and plums grew on trees he’d planted,

despite drought and icy winters. And despite

mustard gas and running loaded stretchers,

and the sometimes-sweet and not-easy years

after, when he grew frail and deaf, but still

 

sure-sighted, with a quiet hand he painted

Wild Flowers in the Woods—a scene as lush

as love, and yet wall-paper flat, as though we

would never need to enter, we were already

there—dated it 7-30-63, and signed his name.

 

 

Sisters

My two arms are sisters, born the same day.

But yet - the left is the knowing one, how to do this, how to do that,

An extrovert.

The right is passive, but kinder somehow.

 

Then came the fall!

 

The left, usually always in front. now hangs back.

The right, with the spoons and forks, gathers all, slowly and carefully.

This neglected sister whispers, "Now is my time, if only for a while."

As her quiet strength remains in the new space.

 

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Sea Glass

Along with Frost’s unstable wall there is

something in nature that does not like

an edge and slowly softens it. Take

 

the shards of sea glass I gather for my wife—

scrubbed and shaped for years before

the ocean gives them up. Let the waves

 

finish their work, she says, if she finds

a jagged piece I will take back to the shore

for further finishing, the remains perhaps

 

of a bottle someone broke off in a bar

in anger. Nature has her own dark moods—

who else drives the wedge of physics

 

into rock and shears off stones as sharp

as blades? Yet time will round these off

as well so children then can skip them

 

across a pond. It is people who hold edges—

all those axes to grind and cutting

remarks—and who seem so ill at ease

 

with polished words, the patient kind

like the pebbles on the beach where

I look for sea glass that roll around so

 

gently in your hand if you pick them up

it’s as if they’ve waited tide in, tide

out for no other moment than that.

 

 

Spruce Head, Maine

I will build a Faraday cage out of bones

bleached by the sun

and made smooth by the tides.

 

I will weave them together with seaweed

and Queen Anne's lace.

It must be big enough to lie down in.

 

It will take at least 30 summers to build

some years are better than others for finding treasures

 

Glimpse of an osprey

a ruined acorn

shiny pebbles

I forget their names slowly over many days

 

Some summers yield only mouse bones

already so close to dust

a wren's fragile rib

 

Other years bring bounties of bear, fox, deer, even Moose.

 

Lichen and moss to line the bottom

 

It should be put close to the water

perhaps a bit of a rough walk from the road

if that is still possible these days

 

I need to make it strong and weave it tight

to keep every update

every tweet

and breaking news flash out

 

But not so tight as to keep out the moonlight

or the sound of the water

the crows laughing,

"Haw! Haw! Haw!"

 

Yours in mine

From whence they come the words

I know not

But let the words flow

Let them come

This is my prayer

To understand that which I can not

So

Let it be

~ Peace ~

Peace to a heart that is troubled

Quiet to a mind that repeats that which it cannot change

Forgiveness to ones soul that is without blame

Welcome to one that is in self-exile

Knowing that love exists in our hearts

For we too are family

~

This life speeds by

I would prefer it did not do so

Without yours in mine ~

 

Summer Storm

In somber expectation, clairvoyant bovines lie with bowed heads in

thirsty pastures, awaiting the electric explosion of voluminous water-

laden reservoirs that are invading the atmosphere in answer to the

changing air pressure.

 

Orioles splash the bulrushes with orange and black, chirping their

anthems as they herald the first droplets that announce the coming

torrents.

 

Darkness falls as the storm advances; newly hatched chicks take

refuge under protective wings.

 

Quiet anticipation is finally rewarded as vertical sheets of life-giving

liquid reward the landscape, creating crystal butterfly wings as it

explodes on hard surfaces and brings small crawling things to the

surface from surrounding grasses.

 

Slowly, the violent turbulence recedes, leaving a laundered world

sparkling in warm sunlight as a multicolored arch embraces the sky.

 

Geography of the Man at the Cash Register

North on his facial map are frown lines.

From displeasure, or concentration?

Dead center nose reads red.

An outdoor man, or likes his celebration?

South, his mouth -- tightly closed.

Bad teeth, or doesn't wish to talk?

Weathered shoes, run-down heels.

All he has, or has too far to walk?

Roughened hands give me the bill.

Has no gloves, or doesn't mind the chill?

 

With a smile, he hands the bag to me,

completing my short lesson in

his geography.

 

The LOVE of Old Grey and the Mornin Dove

Writing poetry is like writing a poem

The old grey squirrel and the morning dove

As we watched and wondered, it may be LOVE

For the LOVE of the squirrel the dove came down

To be with him, but how could it be and then some.

She said, "Come over here and I will show you how."

He said, "You are very, very, but I can't just now."

She said, "Oh come on over my pretty old grey."

He said, "I will, if you show me how to play."

She said, "Oh come on one feeder for us will do."

He said, "You are very, very I'll be there soon."

She said, "If you fly away with me we will be one."

He said, "Ayuh I'll be there if this time it's LOVE."

The question has always been how they got there

In the penthouse Do you wonder maybe they flew.

 

Sea Sunrise

Pre-dawn skies overhead were deep purple,

The horizon bore streaks of pale yellow maze,

Magically hues of peach did then appear

Turning darkness to a soft blueberry haze

A reminder that all things CHANGE!

 

Without awareness in changing of colors

A rim of pure gold peeped out from the brink,

Sending beams of brilliance o'er wave tops, of

Sparkling aquamarine, orange, raspberry pink.

Look for and feel BEAUTY each day!

 

Sky colors then stood at attention, in place,

As a fiery sun emerged from the blue sea,

Eastern skies now bright with warm sunlight;

Promising fresh starts for you and for me.

Have FAITH in new beginnings!

 

As witness to the mornings beautiful sunrise;

I felt hopeful assurance for world overhaul

Of good-will, and renewed faith in mankind,

Endorsed and encouraged by a God of us all.

Believe in HOPE for our world!

 

 

Fog

Our life’s a row in heavy flowing fog

The trees, the rocks, the bluffs of shore grow faint

Like early memories the futures clog.

 

The sleek and lovely yachts with gleaming paint

Asleep at moorings, fog enshrouded, vanish aft,

As perfect as your life’s designs restraint.

 

A growling lobster boat: a sturdy craft,

Unseen, leaves thrashing wake which shifts the skiff

Like bosses who pretended, then they laughed.

 

Lost in breaths of gray, you think, “What if…?”

You could be lost at sea, or jammed on rocks.

The tide is rising, the buoys point: no cliff.

 

So life is fog-filled, off the harbor’s docks,

And rowing may propel you past most shocks,

Imagined, real. (This fog these interlocks.)

 

Psalm of Praise

Oh Sing unto the Lord

A joyous song.

For His mighty works are

Ever present among us.

We feel His warmth from

The morning sun and the evening

Coolness in the ocean breezes.

He is with us in the

Valleys of life and on

The mountain tops with

Awesome wonder!

Oh sing unto the Lord in Thanksgiving,

For our daily food, as He

Clothes us in righteousness.

His blessing never fail me.

He provides strength in my

Weakness and keeps me from

Going astray.

Oh sing unto the Lord

For His creation

His world for us is

Perfect and without end.

Above all bless His name

For sending His son

Jesus to cleanse the world

Of sin for all who

Know His name.

Let us sing our thanks

With Hallelujah chorus!

Amen

 

Goodbye Sweet John

Your passing was sad today.

A golden rainbow lit the sky.

After a final fishing foray.

It was your way to say goodbye.

 

A golden rainbow lit the sky.

We knew you would salute us all.

It was your way to say goodbye.

Too difficult to call!

 

We knew you would salute us all

My Living Will is also done

Too difficult to call!

No point in lingering when it's not fun.

 

My Living Will is also done.

Will think of you when the Patriots romp.

No point in lingering when it's not fun.

Denver must get used to take the stomp.

 

Will think of you when the Patriots romp.

No need to go south for a warmer clime.

Denver must get used to take the stomp.

You can smile and say, 'not where I'm."

 

No need to go south for a warmer clime.

After a final fishing foray.

You can smile and say, 'not where I'm."

Your passing was sad today.

 

The Leonids

Each Fall I count the shrinking days

And watch the moon and note its phase,

And then I’ll check where in the week

The Leonids are at their peak.

 

When those November days roll ‘round,

And all my hiking gear is found,

I find a night both crisp and clear

And trace the steps I made last year.

 

And this nocturnal exercise

Will test my wind and burn my thighs,

But I will make this starlit trek

To freeze my toes and kink my neck

 

And climb this lonesome country hill

All bundled up against the chill

To watch the Gods this autumn night

Fill up the sky with laser light.

 

It was my granddad who first brought

Me to this dark secluded spot

That I might come to recognize

The wonders of those ebon skies.

 

And as my mind is then imbued

With inky midnight solitude,

I settle down on fresh cut boughs

And through the heavens start to browse.

 

Impatiently I strain my eyes

To see that first streak in the skies

That foretells what is yet to come

In Nature’s auditorium.

 

And what keen mind has done the math

That puts our planet in the path

Of this well-known celestial shower

That drenches Earth at this late hour?

 

For buried in the distant past

Some firey comet breathed its last,

And all that’s left for us to see

Is pyrotechnic space debris.

 

It’s hard believing that it’s just

A little bit of ice and dust

That I have come to see each year

Cremated in Earth’s atmosphere.

 

And somewhere they give seminars

About these brilliant falling stars,

Whose lives are spent in one brief flash,

And then reduced to cosmic ash.

 

And can I gather all the worth

From my brief life upon this Earth,

And radiate celestial fire

Before I burn out and expire?

 

Now as my mind returns from space

To this remote and quiet place,

The show is drawing to a close,

And Eastern hills are glowing rose.

 

And I can hardly wait until

I hike this old familiar hill

Surrounded by my own grandkids

Who’ll watch with awe these Leonids.

 

An Elegy For Us

They were dancing and singing today for a better tomorrow

They were walking with friends with strangers with hope

They were wandering through Their own innocence and days

They were being just be-ing like anyone of Us

 

then came the bombs the vehicles the gunfire

cradled in anger cradled in revenge cradled in some principle and purpose

 

They sat at home at school in a theater on a train on a plane on a bus on a boat

amidst expectations and dreams like anyone of Us

then came oblivion

 

I don’t understand.

I don’t understand the bombs

I don’t understand the guns

I don’t understand the teargas

I don’t understand the anger

I don’t understand the principles the purposes the justifications

I don’t understand the chasm of hatred of fear that divides Us.

 

in whose name? in whose name do You divide Us?

 

I am not convinced but it does not matter

violence has settled among Us

it is Our blood Our neighbor Our kin

it moves between Us and oppresses Us like foul air and pestilence

yet We hardly notice the stench until it

singes Our nostrils death taps Us on the shoulder: You will be no more

then

We recoil We protest We demand We accuse…

We breathe in fear: it singes Our nostrils

We breathe out vengeance: You and You and You will be Us no more

now We have become Them who no longer understand Us.

 

what ideology is so important to annihilate Us?

Our children? Our tomorrow’s children? Our pasts as children?

 

who once dreamed loved danced for joy and the future

who once walked with friends with strangers with hope

who once wandered amidst innocence and days

who once felt heartbeats alive

who once were being, just be-ing, like anyone….

 

what has happened to Us?

 

 

Youth Category (16 or younger)


The Lake

The first time we met, you were quiet,

like a leaf falling from a tree.

Just beginning to thaw off the icy claws

that seized you when it was cold.

 

The second time, you were alive,

frothing with life:

The emerald trout,

the hard-working beaver,

the persistent bluejay.

 

The third time I saw you,

you seemed to be curling up in a nest,

like the animals that fed from you.

You covered yourself in a blanket of golden leaves

and began your long nap.

 

The last time I laid my eyes on you,

you had been frozen in time,

gone to sleep,

waiting for the ice to let go of its frosty grip.

 

But it will. The ice will thaw.

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