Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947
photo by Linda Tyler

Fall Workshop Poems 2014

by Popular Vote

October 2014




Waking in the night, I call your name
aloud, and listen. Straining in the dark
silence, I know I’ve only myself to blame.

With others, in the past, love was a game
I played at will, supposing love a lark.

(Waking in the night, I call your name.)

Now, after learning through you how love became
life’s essence, not some frolic in the park,
silence: I know I’ve only myself to blame.

In dreams I dance into a torrid flame          
that sputters to a sudden dying spark.
Waking in the night, I call your name,

aware that it’s a growing sense of shame
my fervid mind is fleeing through the stark
silence. (I know. I’ve only myself to blame.) 

With a restless brain harping on the same
cruel, final, Rubicon-remark,
waking in the night, I call your name.
Silence! I know I’ve only myself to blame.


Copyright ©2014 Marta Rijn Finch
First Place

Scent and Sensibility


Do certain perfumes become obsolete

Or simply fall out of fashion?

Are they poured down the drain into oblivion;

Or am I the oblivious one?

Forty years without a whiff—a scent gone missing.

Is my married mind so faithful (or guilty),

That an aroma from a teenage love cannot

Or will not register in the nose-to-heart connection?

If I found some, would I keep it in a secret cache?

That would be cheating, I believe.


Am I afraid its smelling salt jolt

Would upset a life so stable?

Might I awake in 1970 and never return?

A dangerous game; leave well enough alone.

It’s no sin to travel back in time;

Trouble lies in the cost of the ticket.


To find that perfume, I’ll show this to my wife.

Someday, somehow she’ll come home with a bottle in hand,

Open the cap to give me a sniff, splash it in my face

And trickle some onto our bed--

Only to prove the point--the past is gone,

Today is everything we always dreamed—agreed.


You know darn well she never would wear it,

And for my part it won’t be allowed.

First love may be fantasy, fondly devised,

And I won’t let that memory be compromised.

Copyright ©2014 David Stauffer

Second Place

Forest Meditation


Dawn’s first bright breath ignites the tops of trees

like torches.  Hiking on the trail, the sun’s

insistent rays warm my back through my coat

like comforting heat in winter from a campfire.     

I let my shadow lead the way until

I drop below the ridge where morning chill    

and sudden forest silence shiver me. 

Tall cedars, close together, stand straight, a stately

august grove of Elders in rusty light.

Across the path a single shaft of sun

breaks over the ridge, through the gloom and strikes

a lone white birch, still wet with rain the night

before, its heat creating steam, incense

to every forest Spirit dwelling there.


Copyright ©2014 Marshall Witten

Third Place, tie

The Yellow Bird


Most mornings I’d call Patty about 6:30

to check in and see what’s up for the day.

A trip to Burlington, Barre, Killington,

and she’d be waiting outside her condo

and off we’d go, summer rain or ten below,

Patty in the passenger seat beside me. 

We’d stop at thrift shops, lawns sales,

book shops and malls, or pose for photos

of beaver ponds, wildflowers and waterfalls.

On non-trip days Patty helped with mailings,

moved furniture and boxes, organizing each

project with efficiency and awareness of safety.


At 6:30 Monday I made my usual call;

no, she didn’t feel up to going with me.

On Tuesday Patty was sick, her voice

becoming weaker each time I called, 

but she did not want me to come up.

I asked if I could bring up the Wednesday

morning newspapers. “Thank you” she said.

There was no answer the next morning, but

I bought the newspapers and climbed the stairs

to her apartment. I knocked on the bolted door,

calling her name, knocking again and again.


On the way out of the Condo apartments,

I found a female yellow warbler on the porch;

she had broken her neck when she hit the glass door.

I picked her up, her body still warm.


The papers were outside Patty’s door

when the police found her later that day.


Now every morning I reach for the phone. 

Copyright ©2014  Ann B. Day

Third Place, tie

Reflections of Katherine Parr’s Jeweler


I admired the elegant Katherine Parr,

thought her beauty worth polishing each facet

of that jade-encrusted cross she wore at mass,

and certainly worth creating things spectacular –

those spirals of rubies, clusters of rosettes

that shone in her auburn hair like shards of glass.


So I grew smug, so easily believing

eternity was embedded in a wire twist,

that seams, once soldered, would hold at vital joints.

But fibers, pounded thin, can be deceiving:

since, under pressure, few metals can resist

bending and breaking at their weakest points.


For my world collapsed at milady’s passing –

Why, I asked angrily, are the finest gems

so easily loosened, so easily lost?

And so I mourned, my misery outlasting

the soulful ritual of her requiem,

as I let bitterness claim its dreadful cost.


Wiser now, I take refuge in reflection,

grateful when memories awaken the past.

For grief begs introspection, spurs us to pray –

and mine is a grief eased by recollection

of a goodness and beauty rarely surpassed.

I now know joy can be salvaged, just the way


pearls can be restrung and evenly spread,

luminescence coiled around reknotted threads.



Copyright ©2014  Carol Milkuhn

Fourth Place

Insignificant Toes


The ocean silences Me.


Not the island bays at high

tide where we swim -thighs

tickled in seaweed,


not daring to touch our feet

down and we say, "ew".


Nor low tide when feet suck

muck, clouding crabs.


Nor raging roll on rocky cliffs-

such sea strength could break me.


This ocean has no conscience after all.


But that long Maine,

chameleon, sky beach of shush

eating mind waves.


Insignificant toes, embedded sand.


Flotsam ornaments of a hat,

a little sandal, royal gold buoy rope

adorn the teepee pile -


the driftwood tree.


Detritus washes in and out - the tides of nothing

lost except a cry of ospreys

in air, and the silent


sand dollar  

Copyright ©2014 Karen Ruth Richardson

Fifth Place

After the Time of Frost


Across a perfect circle on the grass,

the blades mown smooth in ever-widening arcs,

an apple's gnarled gray trunk leans further out

as if its twisted limbs reach past to tap

a neighboring birch above still uncut stalks—

the gesture frozen thus in greeting beckons

to a last companion of the untolled years,

and whose left to count, if the truth be known?

Not these survivors of spring's upheaval,

both remnants of a time when fresh strength flowed

unstintingly in veins of sap and blood

until new leaves or loves burst forth with vigor

to grace the place where once a poet penned

immortal lines before he slept, then dreamt.




Copyright ©2014 Carole Minke

Sixth Place