Congratulations to the winners of our annual poetry contest! Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. The following landscape poems were judged by Christine Stewart. She was so impressed with the submissions. Enjoy the winning poems 🙂
FIRST PLACE Ode to the Ground Cherry By Amanda Potter I first saw you, physalis, hiding next to a stale suburban pond and its concrete retention riser. The tallgrass around you flattened by schoolchildren and their bikes and their fishing poles and their food - remnants of potato chips and snack cakes at rest among the cattails. Your crepey shells abide, shelter precious seeds from careless feet. Dirt-learned fingers gathered gold berries when the pond was just a quiet slough, your sweet-tart fed families, healed wounds. Native, ubiquitous, conqueror-called aggressive, cursed when you tangle in draper heads and stain the soybeans. You grow as you always have, no defiance or disrespect intended despite the benevolent language of massacre: Reduce water. Heavy hand with the Roundup. Burn it back. Get it early. You are celebrated when you remain where you’ve been transplanted, an existence marked by demure restraint. I could buy your organic seeds online, sell your fruit at $4 a pint at the farmer’s market. Meanwhile, you sprout in ditches, and quietly cause chaos among neat crop rows – preventing their progress to the highest goods: shiny, empty packages hardening hearts. Ground cherry, I want to be your ally, rebel against a system that values you only when you stay in your place, provide profit. It’s an eccentric kind of subversion, gathering roadside fruit for propagation. Take my garden, grow over the imported blooms. May you survive despite us. May you always remain the untamable creature from the earth. May you rise again and again and again.
SECOND PLACE Hunting Season By Erika Saunders When pheasant hunting it is advisable to leave a thermos full of espresso, shot through with Four Roses, in the cab of the truck for luck. Shotgun bent like herringbone on my shoulder I stare down enucleation from the Big Bluestem seed heads with each footfall. Switchgrass, Indian grass, Sideoats Grama all solid bird shelters in the snow. Invasive species of grass collapse under the weight of the winter snow suffocating what’s below. Invasive like Canada thistle, wormwood sage, even these pheasants were invasive once, and then there is you and me. Climbing over fences and under the dropping sun when the dogs flush a pheasant. I have no shot. You do, and the dogs work the scent presenting a pheasant shot through. I warm fingertips against the trucks air vents, as the dogs in their kennel nestle together like a fine houndstooth and we sip at the coffee, grown stronger with the day, as the truck barrels over the gravel road flushing pheasants from the ditches all the way home.
THIRD PLACE Blessed Zephyr By Cameron Brooks Spirit, breath, wind surging in multitudes of ripe sunflowers like electricity lifting blackbird and raptor and the damp coal nose of a buck. Laughter cracks the face of the deep lake (tongue-inflated-cheek) and every last stalk, shuck, and kernel rattles like a holy plaything. Never inert because never deserted to that quietude tantamount to oblivion.
HONORABLE MENTION Autumn Analog By Peter Colson Monarchs cling to the honeysuckles like wind to the plains, they bob in concert with the gusts and the refrain of the hay sickle. A hunter hurries when a downpour catches him miles from home, stepping into a badger hole, the leg bone parts sudden as thunder. A combine pivots at the end of a cornfield, and pheasants flush, redtails spiral down, clear the dead and silence the indecisive. Rattlers shed under a night sky, and the skins whirl moonlit on a breeze, prairie dogs pause and ponder, the specters slithering among them. Waxwings sing drunk after eating the sun-steeped cranberries, they tumble from branches, and feral cats savor their own sweet time. An oak topples in the shelterbelt, and a young man chops hard, the blade ricochets and marries his lips with the taste of copper. A bison hesitates above the glazed shale surrounding a hot spring, skulls litter the bottom, their last breaths still bubbling to the surface. A snow flurry blinds a summer tanager migrating late, a falcon gawks at the easy note of red squeaking in its talons. An old man’s foot keeps time with sap tapping in white buckets, the beats slow by degrees, and the sugar spills out on the leaves.