Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947
photo by Linda Tyler

PSOV Summer Contest Winners 2017, Published May, 2018



Judge: Carol Westberg

1st Place                  “Chimera”                  George Longenecker

Honorable Mention               “The Swing”               Laura Ellzey




Judge: Sydney Lea

1st Place                                 “In for Service”          Doug Hyde

2nd Place                                 “Mount Abraham”    George Longenecker

3rd Place                                  “Seesaw Tree”            Marta Finch

Honorable Mention                “Fences and People”  Julie B. Mendelsohn




Judge: Deborah Brown  

1st Place                                   “Empty Promise”        Joanne Mellin

Honorable Mention                 “Silence Comes”         George Longenecker




Judge: Baron Wormser  

1st Place                                  “Generation”               Sam Hewett

2nd Place                                “Terza Rima Circus”   Marta Finch

3rd Place                                 “The Upstairs Room”  Ann Day

Honorable Mention                “Growing Up”              Joanne Mellin




Judge: Mary Jane Dickerson

1st Place                                  “The Color of Winter” Janet Burnam

Honorable Mention                 “Love Like a Leaf”        Judith Janoo




Judge: Gary Margolis    

1st Place                                   “World Book Encyclopedia” Sarah Snyder

Honorable Mention                “Superstition vs. Science”     Marta Finch








I wake up kissing a pig,

she asks me if I think there’s a God,

even before she asks me what I’d like for breakfast —

I know better than to say bacon —

scrambled eggs with biscuits and grits, please.


Human stem cells can be legally implanted

in pig and other animals’ embryos —

it was in the news yesterday —

human brain, liver and heart cells.


I can feel her heart beat,

different than before when she was just a pig,

seventy-one beats a minute just like mine

(except during sex or exercise)

but I’m not ready to jog with a pig —

and I can’t even think about sex —

so many nipples.


She throws on a nightie,

I hear her hooves clatter downstairs,

smell coffee.

I wonder if I’d be more compatible

with a sheep or a dog.



George Longenecker



In For Service


 Oriental rugs shamelessly segregate Mercedes on the left

from the lesser Hondas on the right.


Brushed and creased in sporty, black vests

salesmen cloak aggression in sleepy politeness

like hound dogs lying at the threshold,

noses twitching.


Floor-to-ceiling windows

frame a glistening moat of new vehicles

stretching away outside.


Nothing left to chance in this muffled citadel:

curvy, polished metal reflecting cute pinpoints of light

new car perfume and new tire pungency

crisp Robb Report and Entertainment magazines

arrayed on low, chrome and glass tables

‘Moonlight in Vermont’

   in wavering Muzak,

   in May.


Where immersed here much longer

I may start browsing sticker prices

and perhaps forgetting

that bruised lobby just up the road,

sticky with ten-year-old People magazines and

air thickened by the intrusive mystery

of hospital odors.


Where an elderly nun

under coif, veil and habit

Bible open on her lap

index finger tracing word upon word

as the grizzled and gray

the obese and the broken

pass into branching hallways,

following the signs.



Doug Hyde, First Place

Mount Abraham


 The voices in Abraham’s head tell him

to kill Isaac on the summit.  

Today he’d be on the evening news:

Canaan man arrested, psychiatric observation

after attempted mountaintop murder of juvenile.


We climb for lunch on the summit,

each hiker touches giant quartzite

hand after hand on ancient stone,

see across Vermont — northeast to,

Eden and Canaan west to Lake Champlain.


Not far from the lake a father

beat his two-year-old son to death

shattered arm, fractured skull.

The boy’s eyes fade;

even on the mountain I can’t

get the news story out of my head


so I shut my eyes, lie back

like Isaac and sink into stone.

Ravens croak as they float over,

feathers swoosh on the updraft.

Tell the ravens only crumbs from lunch,

no sacrifices on the mountain today.



George Longenecker, Second Place

Seesaw Tree


 Last night’s storm flung a young oak, uprooted,

across a blow-down on the forest floor—

the perpendicular way, aptly suited

for a childhood pastime not seen anymore.

At the path’s edge, it caught me off-guard.

I slipped, and grabbed, and set the tree to swaying,

taking me back at once to the old schoolyard,

to the recess game we’d always end up playing.

It was all balance—the equal weight of a friend:

one got bounced at the top as the other would smack

full-force against the ground at the nether end.

That, no doubt, put the whole thing under attack;

but a sport some civic board has judged too flawed

will never be in Nature’s Book outlawed.



Marta Rijn Finch, Third Place






Empty Promise



The sixth of June,

Michael’s birthday,

my long-lost Gemini boyfriend,

drugged, doomed,

who died at forty, proving the adage

The good die young wrong.

But still.


Severe thunderstorms

predicted for today —

another empty promise.

There’s just early darkness,

a big blow-hard wind

that flays the silver maple,

and this steady soaking rain

that seems like it will never end.



Joanne Mellin





 Somewhere deep in the woods

I know there’s a stone someone

worked upon years ago.

They set it down for the moss

to grow until it pulled their work

into earth below.


When time and frost let it rise again

with memories, and charm for children who

then ran away playing games

they tired of quickly,

then settled down to

make their own things

to feed the moss.


Somewhere deep in the lake

are stones

borne down by water

from the places they formed

that saw the children playing games

— It’s all games to a stone —


Somewhere deep in the stone

are bones

brought there by moss and water

gathered at the low point of autumn

by children weary of games

and charmed by stones.



Sam Hewitt, First Place

Terza-Rima Circus, 1958


 Although the weather-stick dipped down, the sky,

despite a few high cirrus clouds, was clear;

so we left anyway, Lorraine and I,


at dawn. She’d seen the poster first appear

that spring, while waiting in the country store—

beside the window for the mail, at rear.


She’d spun around and grabbed my hand. We tore

back up the aisle, dashing into the street:

The circus! Coming here! Our voices sore


and hardly able then—for weeks!—to eat

or sleep, we talked of little else all day

at school or doing chores. Yet bittersweet


was our anticipation—the delay

just barely long enough for us to earn

the cash we knew we’d need. (Back then, the pay


for berrying was not a sum to spurn!)

     We started running when we saw the tents

and heard the barker’s Step right up! Our turn


came quickly at that hour. The elephants

all washed and mounted, ready for the big top,

trumpeted loudly, adding to our suspense.


Inside at last, the thrills unfurled non-stop:

Tigers leaping through fire, a horse parade,

and high-flyers! We froze to see them swap


trapezes mid-air. A chock-full clown-car made

a fine finale. Outside, no rain yet,

but thunder! We raced home to its serenade:


Tripping, laughing—a day we’d never forget—

and tumbled through the screen door, soaking wet.



Marta Rijn Finch, Second Place

The Upstairs Room


 I awake from my midday nap

to hear November’s wind,

harsh against the house,

groan in leafless maples,

rock a forgotten wicker chair

on the porch.

Looking out

my bedroom window,

I watch tattered clouds

roll across a darkening sky,

trees in the hemlock grove

rock and reel in a mad dance.


The wind wails wilder,

clouds fly faster,

the wicker chair careens

off the porch.


I shut my eyes,

pull the comforter over my head

and turn away from the window

toward the softer light

                   of my inner room.



Ann B. Day, Third Place



The color of winter





The color of winter is blue.

See the blue shadows of dawn

Soft as spun silk on the milky meadow.

At noon the sun is busy writing

Hard blue lines on the paper of snow.

See the perfect outlines drawn there

Of last summer’s yarrow and fencerows.

And then, with its early setting, come shadowed

Blue smudges casting up the hollows,

Like spills from a watercolorist’s brush water.

Even the ice moon pierces down its own shade

Of moon blues on the snows of midnight.

And then there’s me.

The color of me is blue…

                 This winter without you.



Janet Hayward Burnham





World Book Encyclopedia


I remember the Princess phone

in the upstairs hallway, its long cord

and taking the handset into my room, curling up


on the floor or the twin bed, settling in.

When the cord tangled in knots, I’d lean against

the bookshelf of encyclopedias — cream and green


spines lined and shiny, drop the tan handset over the railing,

letting it dangle and spin to right itself. It took awhile to undo

what I had done, time to think about pages I loved


in the thick books — the transparencies

of the human body systems. Clear pages to lift,

a skeletal frame, underneath — a sheet with organs —


intestines like the cord before its unraveling,

and the heart, nothing like the ones in my margins,

nothing like the throbbing inside — transparent and wild.



Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Summer Contests Awards 2016


Winner: “Hurry Up”  by Will Meyer


Hurry Up


Hurtling down the highway,

doing sixty-five,

every bug we come upon

never more alive.


Our Industrial Revolution

leaves little time for Evolution.

Do we have to go so fast,

grinding up the future, making it the past



Honorable Mention: “Thick and Thinner” by Alice Gilborn


Winner: “Dead Fawn Curled in a Pool under Old City Falls” by Sarah Snyder


Dead Fawn Curled in a Pool under Old City Falls


Maybe she didn’t know

where the river fell


and so she must have flown,

puff of her tail high and white.


Maybe we will sail

in the flutter of a leap


toward a fragile point—

leave our bodies


behind encased

and chaste.                                    


2nd- “The Scythe Tree” by Ann Day


The Scythe Tree


                        A half-mile in from Four Corner Road

                                             a beech tree stands in shadowed glade.

                        Its soft gray bark is roughly scarred

                        from black bear claws and jackknife blade.


                        The trunk has hollowed with old age,

                        the branches twist in shapeless forms.

                        The crisp leaves cling to slender twigs

                        throughout the fall and winter storms.


                        A curved and rusted blade protrudes

                        from the flank of the ancient tree.

                        The neighbors say it’s been there since

                        eighteen hundred and sixty three.


                        The story goes that a farmer’s boy,

                        while in the meadow mowing hay,

                        heard the call to take up arms,

                        and left to go to war that day.


                        He hung his scythe in the nearby beech

                        as he went off to join the strife.

                        Today that tree and scythe remain;

                        a memorial to that farm boy’s life.



3rd- “Whisper Quiet” by Michael Farrand




Whisper quiet

  Morning wisp

    Deer steps . .



Will he charge?

  Doe says 'no'

    And off they go




Honorable Mention- “Voices” by Joanne Mellin


Winner: “Consolation” by George Mathon




Tap your father’s headstone, wait

for his reply, stamp the dust of vanished

mountains from your boots. Watch

old maple trees pour their lives

into buckets of exhausted


            watch the moon and stars soft-shoe

across the sky to a song you can’t hear.


They must be making it up. So much

for an afterlife.

                         But the music must be beautiful,

something smooth and jazzy. You can tell

by their footwork and from the way

they fall down every night—

                                                get up and do it

again. You don’t need toe-taps, scatter some sand

across the floor—an easy glide, a rhythm slow

enough even you can keep in step,

not for eternity,

                          just to dance the night away.



Honorable Mention: “Illusion” by Deanna Shapiro


1st Place: “Alzheimer's”   by Janet Haywood Burnham



There is a spook

that stalks our house

measuring out with careful steps

the rocky precipitous slopes

of rugs and floorboards;

munching our napkins

wetting our corners,

and speaking with old crowds

we cannot see.

He would be clever

and slight-of-hand

puts on the suit and face

of father;

he then plays the part-

but poorly.

With skin so pink and unconcerned,

So very like a child,

He must be watched as one.

And then,

Because the ancient order of his days

Whisper in his bones;

“It’s time to go,”

he will up and slip unseen

out of the safety of the house

into a world of cacophonic clattering,

where all re dancing to a drummer

he no longer knows.


2nd Place: “Moon and Sea” by Sissy Bradford


Moon And Sea


I let slip the moorings.

The moon, pale and full, called the tides. And me.

The tide pulled. The waves rocked and the tide pulled.

I followed the moon’s path of silver moonlight.

The night silent and deep as the ocean below.


3rd Place: “Summer Fog”  by Sarah Snyder


Summer Fog


At the top of Jericho Street

where the road becomes dirt,

fog conceals the world below —


no White River, 

no hard curves of highway,

no houses beyond the Lyman farm.


When the fog burns off,

each shrouded life will

emerge undiminished.


But this moment I see

only the unveiled pool of a sky,

three deer grazing in the high


meadow, smell sweet hay,

and hear the sound of stone

on stone as I pass by.


Honorable Mention: “Counting On Sheep”  by Alice Gibbon



Winner: “George” by Janet Burnham



It’s been

more than two years

since you laid your bones

on the cellar floor,

the spark of life-extinguished-gone.

I was not with you to see it go

but found you there

with a deep quiet calm upon your face.

My sorrow does not wane.

And if you should come “round

You’d see-

I’m still feeding your deaf feral cat,

the one you fed outside your workshop door,

the one who let no one near enough to touch.

He’s still not trusting,

but sits mornings at the garden’s edge

looking in the kitchen window-waiting-waiting

for me to come out with food.

In his unending fright, he is a spirit,

as untouchable to my empty hands

as you are now.


Honorable Mention: “Modulation” by Inga Potter



Winner:” 239,000” by Sissy Bradford



You are 238,900 miles away.

There are tides. Phases. And sometimes eclipses.


There is a dark side. And a small place where

I left the lunar module and walked in your heart.


Golf ball, flag, commemorative plaque,

a gold replica of an olive branch, and

a hundred other forgotten things

were left behind.


238,900 miles,

the distance between the moon and me.




Honorable Mention: “Wedding Cake” by Steve Coteus