Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947
photo by Linda Tyler
Spring Workshop Poems
by Popular Vote
May 2017

First Place


Cambridge Garden Revisited - Ann Day


Today I returned to the garden 

near Harvard Square.

It is just as I remembered 

when you brought me here

forty Aprils ago. You took my hand 

and led me through the stone archway. 

We sat together on this granite bench 

to talk awhile as we waited for your 

doctor's appointment that afternoon 

before returning to Vermont. 

Today, sparrows still chatter in ivy

that clings to bricks of the college hall, 

muting distant drones of city traffic 

on the other side of the garden wall. 

Uncut grass is freshly green,

a wayward breeze from the harbor

stirs yellow jonquils beneath 

a rose-budded apple tree. 

April sun warms the corner

of the garden where I sit alone  

and watch a robin run across the grass, 

stop, cock its head to listen for beetles.

A window opens in the building near by;

undisturbed, the sparrows still chat in the ivy.

I rest on the bench and close my eyes to listen

to Harvard’s chapel bells toll the noon hour,

a lonely sound that echoes that spring day

in 1970 on our Vermont farm, when you

found a final escape from your ravaged mind.

You took a knife and climbed the pasture hill 

into the quiet woods. There, by the brook, 

you took your life with the silver blade, only days

after your appointment with the Cambridge doctor.


2nd place


Unless - Dianne Swan

This is the poem
that wants to bring you
a hot cup of coffee
when you are nodding off,
wants to put a hand on the shoulder
of your blue velvet jumpsuit
when you are unsure.
It wants to take the shade off
the lamp, to stop wars, cure
illness, tell your family
how much you love them. It wants to give
twenty dollars to the young woman

at the intersection holding the sign.

But it is only a white plastic lawn chair

left in the woods all winter,
invisible in the snow, and will be lost
again to summer’s green confusion,
unless, now, in April, you see it
through the basket of branches -
something white and empty
shaped to hold you —
and you think, “I could walk in there,
through the mud and dead leaves,
sit
and look around.”


tied for 3rd place


The Graveyard Tree - Marta Finch

Some would argue it simply wasn’t true

that the tree was planted when the church was new;

but no one is alive who knows what year
it first appeared. And there is no one here
who can remember a Sunday morning without

becoming distracted (even those most devout).

It is nearly impossible to determine

how many an interminable sermon

was made to seem to pass a little faster

when beyond the Palladian window behind the pastor
a robin perched on a bough to sing its song
and nothing in the world seemed dark or wrong.

     But storms would come and winter winds would blow

and limbs succumbed beneath the weight of snow. . . .

That great tree’s height made fearful one old man:
he lived alone in a tiny house that bordered

the yard and after a fitful night he ordered
that the tree be removed. What right had he?
And who was there to speak for that mute tree?

An axe-man needing money was quickly gotten
to say that woodpeckers proved the tree was rotten;

though given its age, there was hardly much decay.

The tree was felled, cleaned up, and hauled away

(during organ practice with the church choir)—
and no one now can show he was a liar.

But oh, that man may regret his temerity

and come to miss that stalwart graveyard tree;

even squirrels hunting nuts, running helter-skelter

when he is lying there without its shelter.



Paisley - Inga Potter


In paisley shops

I am drawn to that cloth,

but dignity denies

my urge to clutch it

in my hand, lose

my face in the fringe

of the shawl

that once covered the curve

of our concert grand

with its patterned,

soft, Scottish wool

in amber, salmon,

gold and white,

woven with the sound

of Dvorak's

“Song To The Moon”

from Father's violin,

and candlelight,

luminescent,

on Mother's auburn hair.


tied for 4th place


The Morning After  - Carol Milkuhn

Once, when I was teaching Tender Is the Night

a student asked, “Is it true about Fitzgerald? 

Did he really write about his wife, Zelda,

really share her words and letters with the world?”

“So critics say,” I answered, “but I believe 

he was also writing about someone else— 

an heiress named Sara Murphy, a debutante 

who threw a ten year party on the Cote d’Azur, 

where Hemingway met Picasso and Pauline, 

his second wife, while Parker and Dos Passos 

exchanged stories over sherry on the sand.” 

“And did Sara ever forgive Fitzgerald?” 

she persisted. “I mean, were there consequences?”

“Well, Fitzgerald made her famous,” I replied,

embroidering my account of those picnics

where the glamorous, sophisticated Sara

presided like Nicole in Tender Is the Night

wearing long and willowy gowns with pearls wrapped

around her neck as she sat on the sun-bleached sand—

pearls that would become iconic, remembered

thereafter as worn by the elegant Nicole, 

bone white against her tanned back, lovely and hard, 

while that party continued into the wee hours, 

a soiree as sparkling as a vintage champagne. 

Older now, I see things less romantically,

and, less captivated by Fitzgerald’s cadences, 

I would recite a list of consequences, 

bitter residue of his poison-rich prose.

For of course Sara never forgave Fitzgerald—

she knew his betrayal 

      was the same as goodbye.



A Boy’s Wagon - David Stauffer


     That’s me in the grainy black and white snapshot;

1953 in my grandparents’ yard.

Baggy pants and Lone Ranger suspenders that

Hiked the cuffs above my socks.

Pale arms, tee shirt, crew cut, cowlick,

Full face to the morning sun, casting

A shadow twice my length—

A skinny two year old boy.

     In my hand is the long black handle

To a red metal wagon—new and empty.

Back then they were called coasters.

     I’ve been pulling that wagon ever since;

Up the gradual slope, the straight and

Narrow road my parents set me upon.

     Everything I loaded in that wagon

Was my own doing, nothing I couldn’t pull.

Oh, some burdens may have slowed me down,

But they seemed to fall away—

At just the right time.

     I’ve been undeservedly fortunate.

If ever the wagon wanted to tip,

I stopped to rebalance the weight.

     As I approach the sunset at the top

Of the rise, the load is lightening, is diminished.

My wagon should be empty when the road ends.

     There I will turn it around, grease the wheels,

Sit in the back with feet dangling off the front, 

Hold the handle in my lap—

And coast.

     Coast downhill past all the places I’ve ever been,

Waving to my wife, and farther down, my children,

As they pull their wagons up the same slope.

     Gliding to the bottom, the beginning,

There I will share a toast with my parents,

And thank them for such an adequate red wagon.