Congratulations to the winners of our annual poetry contest! Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. The following portrait poems were judged by Dana Yost. He was so impressed with the submissions. Enjoy the winning poems 🙂
FIRST PLACE Stopping in at La Leona Roadhouse, Patagonia, Argentina By Peter Colson On the way to the fish camp, we stop in at a roadhouse, searching for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, not Newman and Redford (“Kid, I never shot anybody before.”) but the real deals. Three cowboys wager whiskey on hook and ring next to the poker table. My guide Gabriela, a tatted, twentysomething redhead, leans back into the bar and cools the hard trail stares before flicking her chin back to the wall. Beneath a $10,000 bounty and bowlers, the banditos yanquis pose in tintype and unarmed, like dandies. Years horse thieving and rustling colored civil but gone straight to robbing banks and trains. Likenesses sketched on a movie poster hang near, their expressions pained and fated to their Hollywood deaths by folly and overkill. They hid out here after a bank job, mulling the dullness in Bolivia against dancing head in a noose anywhere else. A fourth cowboy strums a guitar, bawls out a verse about a broke gaucho who can’t feed his horse, and the trio garrotes the chorus. (“Who are those guys?”) On her way to the door, Gabriela cuts the line snagging the ring midflight and swings for a bull’s eye, then downs the bets riding the rail. The boys look bushwhacked. A smile escapes outside, and she whispers, “I’m better when I move.” The tire tracks vanish over rock east of Fitz Roy, and Gabriela steers spurning cairns and compass, but I don’t second guess, my notions drawing dead in the good company of outlaws.
SECOND PLACE Frederick Manfred 1912 – 1994 By Roberta Haar His hands like origami birds in constant transformation. When he was lying in the hospital he told me, “One day I looked at the calendar and the numbers began to fall off the page.” His demands that I keep writing, to send him everything, to overcome doubt that I had “the stuff.” His imperious wishes, his imposing letters. Yet, to think now, walking the River Bottom, driving along the chalk-rock bluffs, visiting the monument to Struck by the Ree, lunching at the Fort Randall Baitshop. The lilacs overflowing their damp wrapped newspaper, cut from Roundwind for my graduation and my little place on Summit Avenue, convening amongst my second-hand furniture, and second-hand books and stolen flamingo. His asserting that I drive his long white car to the Twin cities for his St Paul event. He said I looked “powerful” behind the wheel. The black-tie dinner at the Governor’s mansion with tall Timberwolves at our table, “Whose that old guy you’re with?” His dangerously introducing me as “The Poet” to everyone at the gala event. Then there was talk of Stockholm, investigating his University of Minnesota archives: tax papers, epistles, carbon copies of all the letters he had ever written including those written to me. Most of all, I cannot forget eclectic Roundwind, his tee pee office poking out of the prairie with photos (mine too) books (“I read three at a time”) his typewriter, the finished lizard manuscript and piles and piles of books. The self-built mantel made with field stones picked with care, his pressure-cooking garden food, and placing me at the opposite end of his long table. There, listening to his vivid, sometimes gaudy stories (baseball, basketball, tuberculosis, crawling on the prairie and eating insects to know Hugh Glass, Crazy Horse, Black Elk, Blue Mound, poets he loved and women he loved too). All the while watching the sun set in the western sky with swallows crisscrossing the valley below.
THIRD PLACE Danny 1958-2019 By Bill Quist After years of midnight calls, slurred words, seizures, the time they found you in a snowbank hypothermic, blue, we finally got the news you’d made it through, coughing blood like Kerouac to some satori caught for the big beyond. I’d already written your eulogy a hundred times but still it came as a surprise. You, star of our psychedelic youth, what vision did I miss this time that took you to the edge and over, and what was it about whiskey that you still didn’t understand? In the Black Hills I found a piece of rose quartz that reminded me of you, sort of stooped when stood on end, gentle and sad with grace. I hung it on the fence and when we sit around a fire it looks like you did, holding something we don’t know, smile of mystery and promise of something better on your face.