Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947
photo by Linda Tyler


2019 Spring Workshop Winners

1st place:          Harmonious Cacophony                         Marta Rijn Finch

2nd place:         Elegy for the Frederick I-70 Truckstop    Charlie Rossiter

   Torn Down to Make Room for a 

   Costco Store and Warehouse

3rd place:          Recollections                                            David Moon

4th place tie:     The Big Bang Theory                                S. J. Cahill

Polio Pioneer              George Longenecker  

Only the Moment    Marshall Witten





HARMONIOUS CACOPHONY

 

The minute winter starts to lose its grip,

A frog no longer than a paperclip—

Still half-frozen, breaking hibernation,

Puffs out a throat-balloon in full vibration.

 

Unlike a proper child that’s seen, not heard,

The little creature, nearly sepulchered

Beneath a log or last year’s matted plants,

Joins hundreds others in ear-splitting chants.

 

Year in, year out, in slow release, the chill

Gives way. Returning rituals still thrill:

Catching echoes of that sleigh-bell sound,

Feelings waken in us as new-found.

 

Go seek your purple crocus in the sun

To tell you winter’s yielding. I, for one,

Shall sit beside a wetland in the spring

And wait to hear the peepers start to sing.


Marta Rijn Finch




ELEGY for the FREDERICK I-70 TRUCKSTOP TORN DOWN

to MAKE ROOM for a COSTCO STORE and WAREHOUSE

 

I had a lot of fine downhome diner breakfasts

there in the company of quietly murmuring

 

sunrise voices, Alice’s “morning hon” when I walked

in, long haul truckers in cowboy boots and Stetsons,

 

sad-eyed lot lizards in mini-skirts smoking

and drinking strong coffee in the back booth,

 

something twangy out of Texas or Nashville

on the jukebox. Being there was like being

 

somewhere outside of time and place, a feeling

I want to remember always—that, and the solace

 

the I-70 gave me during dark times when

the rest of life seemed stark and cold.

 

Charles Rossiter



R

RECOLLECTIONS 

 

The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot...

 

I remember the author's name, Billy Collins, even the plot, 

all about forgetting, but cannot recall the title. Naturally, 

I Google it: "Forgetfulness." Which reminds me of another 

 

poem. Although I've forgotten the author and the title,

but not the line: There are places where things go to be 

forgotten, like the back of the mind or the tip of the tongue. 

 

I don't worry about forgetting the quadratic equation, or all

those facts Collins believes are "lurking" in some "obscure

corner of your spleen." No, I don't worry about everything

 

that has "retired to the southern hemisphere of my brain,"

facts poised on the tip of the tongue, so easily googleable.

I worry about the kinds of memories that when they go,

 

they're gone, gone forever. Not things we know by rote,

like the periodic table, but those things we know by heart.

For a while after Sarah died I worried I might forget her,

 

forget the sound of her voice, her touch, forget Sarah.

Years ago I knew the names of hundreds of customers,

but now I worry I'll forget my granddaughters' names,

 

forget the names of my living-breathing daughters,

even though I pray for each one nightly by name.

Still, I worry I'll forget who they are. Not a fact or two

 

about when they were little, or a birth date, but who

they've grown up to be. Mostly, I worry that I'll forget

who I am, now that I'm finally so close to knowing.

 

David Mook



THE BIG BANG THEORY

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

That existential question so often asked 

has everyone waiting and wanting to know 

Which? and Where? and When? it began.

 

Before Once upon a time and the written word

men wearing animal skins built fires in caves

while they drew on walls and invented language

which brought up the chicken and egg question.

 

Then bands and clans and primitive tribes

ate chickens and eggs in big city states

built Kingdoms and Empires that rose and fell

but left every civilization still wanting to know:

 

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

Could one have existed before the other?

Did The Little Red Hen and Chicken Little 

write recipes for a Humpty Dumpty soufflé?

 

Wise men and wizards the world around

went head to head with psychics and mystics 

while magicians pulled chickens from hats.

but the chicken-egg question remained unsolved.

 

Theologians and scholars wrote bibles and books

and Evolution went to war with Intelligent Design.

But scientists came up with the Big Bang Theory

insisting it was an explosion that started it all

 

with the final proof found in a New Yorker cartoon:

a black and white drawing of a chicken and egg 

together in bed and basking in post-coital glee.

The chicken is smirking and smoking a cigarette

and saying, “I guess we’ve answered that question.”


S. J. Cahill



POLIO PIONEER

 

We marched across town from our four room school

to Highland Elementary where we’d get our polio vaccine. 

Despite my fear of being stuck with a needle,

I looked forward to free lunch and ice cream after the shots—

only half of which were real Salk vaccine,   

a fifty-fifty chance I was safe—

if it really worked. 

But still my parents signed me up,

better odds than getting polio-meningitis

like Dad’s brother Charles who died of polio

thirteen years before I was born,

still grief more than twenty years later.

 

So we marched across town,

23 students led by two teachers—

I was my favorite storybook character,

Rob Whitlock: A Pioneer Boy in Old Ohio,

except we were walking up High Street,

not heading west in Conestoga wagons—

still, those who got the placebo could die. 

We were pioneers, marching up the hill for science—

I got the real vaccine, which worked,

and I didn’t have to go back the next year.

 

No placebo kids in our trial died, 

but across the country many did.

My parents prayed I’d be one of the lucky ones.  

I proudly wore myPolio Pioneer pin, 

an eight-year old marching to eradicate disease,

get ice cream and time off from school. 

 

George Longenecker




ONLY the MOMENT

 

Jill was ten years in remission, my blissful

second marriage, went for periodic checkup. 

Minor laparoscopic surgery, out same day.

She did not wake up.

 

So sudden, unexpected, we had plans.

Assumed we had many years remaining, 

both seemingly healthy, biking, skiing, hiking, 

swimming, culture travel worldwide.

 

Why? Numb, no chance to say goodbye?

I cook now, eat alone, house whispers “her.”

Cold bed, her lipstick, hairbrush in the bathroom,

Sue’s voice still on the answering machine; I weep.

 

Wander our house aimlessly, stare at pictures

of us in happy places, can’t go back.

Reading, mind wanders, listless, in a funk.

Can’t focus on my manuscript, editor grumbles.

 

I’m eating too much, exercising to0 little.

There’s no religious faith that comforts me.

Studied Buddhism, but could never concentrate.

Control the breaththey said, it’s all you have.

 

One’s breath alone, doesn’t seem like much, cold comfort

when you are grieving. Takes courage to practice Zen 

and stare into impermanence, suffering, uncertainty.

My life was not supposed to end this way. 


Marshall Witten