Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947
photo by Linda Tyler

Fall Workshop Poems 2017 by popular vote

With Chard DeNiord, Poet Laureate of Vermont

1st Place tie      “Nets                                       Judith Janoo

1st Place tie      “hunger next door”                 Judith Hishikawa

3rd Place           “From Inside Out”                  Ann Day

4th Place           “Second Light”                       Marta Rijn Finch

5th Place           “Giver of Good Gifts”            Donna Otto

6th Place           “Blue Dragonfly”                    Deb Chadwick

Fall Workshop Poems 2016

by Popular Vote


          for Charles


Hearing your even breathing, soft and deep

beside me, after loving, as you sleep,

transports me back through time to our first days

together. In spite of memory’s fading grays

befogging a doting mind, inside my head

is the crisp recall of a corner shop where bread

and cheese and wine seemed like the gift of gods.

   We felt like gamblers then, with all the odds

stacked in our favor. Bicycling through the park

with youth’s indifference to encroaching dark,

we smelled the sea, we picnicked on the sand;

and from that moment, everything we’d planned

of separate lives scuttled off in swift retreat:

ghost crabs, barely glimpsed, from beneath our feet.

The fog was trying its best to intervene

as I mounted the seawall, precariously, to lean

into your warmth. You staved off the cold

that night but we could never have foretold

how through mere mortal passion we should see

our love turn time into eternity.


Marta Rijn Finch, First Place




Unmarked Crossings



Our lives have come to that dangerous place

where road and rail converge and cross

with no signal bell or flashing light

to warn us of what lies ahead


So let us hope we still have time

for hearts and wills to find a way

to avoid the collision course

that surely will destroy us both


Until we can decide to climb inside

one conveyance or the other

and take the rural road into the woods

or rails of silver steel to the city on a hill.



S. J. Cahill, Second Place

Our Round Table



That Thanksgiving the Shendos,

our Pueblo friends, made atole

bread and we roasted turkey,

mashed potato and turnip

with garlic and cream, spread our meal

the length of the Formica table

with the skinny metal legs. The Rockies,

our backyard, we heaped the children’s

plates, and you asked me to say grace.

It was a slow accumulation,

the weight of our preparations

bearing down,

the metal creak …

scree, whish of plates

as the weakest leg

gave way.


Stunned, you salvaged the bird

and I, the baby from the high chair.

The squash and atole — a pool

on the linoleum with swimming

peas and cranberries.

We might have wept had our friends

not seen whole nations fall.

They had children too, and passed-off

furnishings, and the glue of our transient

expectations made their laughter

tinkle like crystal.


The Formica in the dumpster,

we rearranged our banquet

over the table-clothed floor,

unfolding a story: tomorrow

we’d explore furniture stores,

buy unfinished oak, trunk-based,

claw feet. No legs. Solid

to withstand all our moves.

We’d stain it golden to look like

the sun, the knights’ meeting,

the shape known long before

Columbus that kept us

from falling off

the face of the earth.



Judith Janoo, Third Place tie

Scribo — Ergo Sum



     The swayback barn on my great uncle’s

Farm was old and tall.

Both gable end walls of Pennsylvania fieldstone,

Laid two feet thick, canted the least bit inward

To buttress the timber framework.

     High up near the peak, each held

A small window sash — rather Cyclopean —

A daring curiosity for this young boy.

     Unseen, I climbed to the upper mow.

Higher still, atop loose, rocking hay boards,

I wound around the purlin posts,

Shuffling my sneakers toward the ochre light.

     Across the deep windowsill I extended

A forefinger through lacy cobwebs,

Past a pigeon nest, avoiding the bees,

To place my mark on the only uncracked pane.

     Each letter, when inscribed through

The decades of dust and crud,

Shone with incoming brilliance —

Every stroke a ray of vitreous clarity.

     This was not the time or place for graffiti.

My name sufficed; a modest proof.

     It would be discovered … or not —

As was the charcoal handprint in

The cave of a dying Neanderthal,

Or the stylus grooves, proud words

Of a young Pompeian student, deeply

Pressed into his fragile wax tablet.



David Stauffer, Third Place tie

“Who are you, besides woman?”


 I crumble from the softest wind

fall over me and you will find

   dust    behind a tripping tumble weed


you’ve put me in the desert

   where you say I belong,     because

I could never grow into anything

more than what you desire,

            and you don’t see how the sun burns

            you think shallow means safety

            like you can’t drown

in an inch of water anyway

            but there’s not even that much here

            it’s all so crisp and fragile and female


I am crumbling, slowly,

   slowly, I am becoming

            snapshots shaken in a tin can

           on a street corner

            as shoeless feet walk under

               bridges meant for sleeping


I am not sleeping.

You won’t let me.

I am always           alert.

You are, too.

   Can’t be too tired to run today —

           can’t be too female to frisk today —

            can’t be too woman to rape today —

           can’t it be left alone —

              can’t I   be   left     alone?



I think I am     almost




Bianca Amira Zanella, Fourth Place

Two Crows


 Last night

I heard haunting cries

of south-bound geese

crossing the veiled light

of November’s half-hidden moon.


In the icy morning hours,

I walk among blackened leaves

of tomato plants and pumpkin vines.

I pound frozen water buckets

and hear the cattle bawl for hay.


The orange gold

of yesterday’s Indian summer

lies dull and matted

under bare limbs

of our backyard maples.


Two crows

cross a rising pale sun

and slide silently into

fog that hugs the river

in the valley below.



Ann B. Day, Fifth Place


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