Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947
photo by Linda Tyler


 

2018 Autumn Workshop Winners: 

ONE LAST SWEET BREATH…Ann B. Day—1st tie

SUGAR KELP……………..……Judith Janoo—1st tie

THE IMPERATIVE OF ‘I’……..David Stauffer—3rd

WAR GAMES (After Bishop)…….Marta Finch—4th tie

LEDGE…………………………Ellen Parent—4th tie





One Last Sweet Breath


The last of summer lingers still,

captured in a golden field

beyond the leafless woods.

I discovered it quite unexpectedly!

 

Gone are summer sounds

of humming bees, katydids.

and dragonflies. They have fled

the early frosts of fall.

 

Instead, a gentle breeze

stirs the graying goldenrod,

and sun-warmed soil and yellow grass

glow beneath my feet.

 

Last week we had an early snow,

frosting morning meadows

and whitening pasture slopes

on autumn’s hillside farms.

 

Nearby, woods were cold and damp,

where scattered sunlight

slipped through bare branches

to dapple leafy paths below.

 

But, today November’s

noonday sun has filled this field

with hints of summer smells

and tawny tints.

 

A hidden place I came upon,

where summer lingers still;

one last sweet breath

before the winter chill.

 

Ann B. Day

First Place Tie



SUGAR KELP

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas

 

Sea garden of green lettuces,

red mosses, brown ribbons

of sugar kelp caterpillared

just below the surface, spooling

spores around rope, above tiers

of mussels, oysters—the new farm,

where hunger wraps as it grows,

eats poisons of land and air,

while an old man’s bent head

gives years to a bed,

his hopes to the cove, the return

of the herring folding into flakes of skin,

white powder of Gold Bond

a daughter applies for him, keeping him

at home, and the caregivers with bird names,

Phoebe and Robyn, who come mornings to wash him

as sugar kelp is washed by the waves,

as it washes what the sea has taken into itself.

All Rise, say those who escaped

the firing on the beaches of his war,

that have laid down inside him,

near-cleansed, near-resigned

as new fishing ground, where no hook, no catch,

only soothing of a daughter’s hands,

until she moves his lighter away from the oxygen tank,

and his pipe, his habit of reaching to ignite it.

He’s slid down to the foot of the bed, one leg dangling

the rail, blankets bunched beneath him. He’s wet.

“Can you push a little with your feet?” his daughter says.

“They don’t work anymore.”

She reminds him fishermen now farm the waters

he’s spent a lifetime minding. “Growing sugar kelp.”

“Seaweed,” he says. “Algae. That stuff?”

Letting go of the buoys, his dories,

the ocean and its scales.

 

Judith Janoo

First Place Tie

 


The Imperative of ‘I’

 

Fitful sleep on a vinyl chaise,

   An outdoor bed to skirt the heat.

     From restive dreams I woke to meet

     The morning sun and dawn’s malaise.

She came to me with tender news,

     The magic wand, the urine test.

     The coming year we would be blessed

     By little feet in baby shoes.

Her words were lost, I had no choice.

     Before the joy or trace of fear,

     Another sound came in my ear,

     A silent song—a wordless voice.

It was not heard; perhaps a sense

     Or thought not mine, not of my will.

     It settled in me, calm and still,

     A deeper realm, suffused, intense.

I joined a vast fraternity.

     My Self was speaking to myself

     In ancient lines from somewhere else

     Of fatherhood, paternity.

Something I was telling me: Now

     You’ll never die; I will not die.

     This revelation, what or why,

     Came unknowingly, telling how

I was to grasp ‘forevermore’.

     It lies in love, the mind and heart,

     In limbic brains that from the start

     Want only life and only more.

I share the cells of mouse and man,

     The brow of apes, the blood of fleas,

     The stuff of stars, the salt of seas,

     The common things, the common plan.

A nascent urge for progeny

     Compels the soul to multiply,

     To pray for life, and hold— till I—

     Sent forth the waiting child in me.

 

David Stauffer 

Third Place


War Games: a Villanelle


    (After Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”)


The art of fighting is easy to acquire:
Start early with your siblings over toys.

Though naturally, the parents do soon tire,

they learn, before too long, to goad shyer
ones on, and say of wounds, “Boys will be boys.”
The art of fighting, so easy to acquire,

proves useful even as old rivals conspire
to back their offspring’s teams. In equipoise
between the sports and camouflage attire,

in photos of teams and troops, time to admire
the uniforms before the first convoys.
The art of fighting is easy to acquire,

to laud. In every pub, re-lived, are prior
battles: old tales—Homer’s or Tolstoy’s,
their own. You’d think at last they’d tire,

turn collective minds to matters higher—
yet something (Admit it!) deep in them enjoys
the art of fighting, so easy to acquire—
that they push onward and will never tire.


Marta Finch

Fourth Place Tie

 


Ledge

 

There was a moment before our uncle came running

in the Adirondacks, in a low green mist,

a moment after she slipped off the razer rocks--

no loud scrabble, no fumble for my hand.

There was a moment before

I yelled across the wide lake and its deep belly,

after the splash of her body

and its echo, smoothed off by the waves.

That moment before the water closed on her face,

her mouth a hinge, her eyes locked hard onto mine,

after her first wet gasp,

her limbs spread like the gills of a grounded fish,

one moment on the wet-slick ledge

when I realized that neither of us could swim,

when I was sure that if I touched my sister

she would pull me under, too.

 

Ellen Parent

Fourth Place Tie