Annual Contest Winning Poems: Portrait Category

Congratulations to Roberta Haar and Bill Quist for winning the annual contest in the portrait category!

First Place

50, today
by Roberta Haar

What part of me is 50? What specks,
particles, motes or grist over the years?
Hair keeps growing molecule by molecule
while cells replenish from time to time.
Nails renewed. Even nerves and brain cells are

new. Perhaps my mitochondria with its
intra-sensory flashes or perhaps the
eggs within ovaries—the potential children
unborn. Conceivably my genetic code—those instructions
to build me—a 50-year-old plan
for molecular agitation.

Is my heart 50 years old? Beating
nonstop, and yet such muscle needs
revitalisation, repair, with new blood cursing
through it containing nutrients from
thousands of animals and plants that have
died in the service of my upkeep.

Are my memories 50 years old? Only
fleeting ones that may be reconstructed from
photographs. Is my soul 50 years old?
Possibly. Yet, a pious spirit needs need rebirth from time
to time to replenish a faith.
More likely

my soul has undergone transformation, a rejigging
of firmament and essence. I watched
a green darner dragonfly emerge from its
nymph on a rock near the shore today. A
birth of one life form from another. Can
souls do that too,

slough off a shell, an exoskeleton and
become shiny, glittering and new? Certainly,
I feel like a closely-woven, full-souled woman but
which soul is currently abiding within me? Is
it the same life-force of 50 years ago or is it

It is a day of visible sunrays penetrating
through patchy clouds. Here, I
sit on a rock with birdsong and fish splash and
lapping water. The breeze catches
the cottonwood leaves like the fast drumming of keys on the lower
end of a piano. A cicada radiating pulses.
I found a piece of almost perfectly square shale,
all grey shades and partially fractured.

I gently pried open the pieces,
like unfastening a deck of cards, exposing the interior to light and
air for the first time in what could be
millennia since the particles settled and were
compressed into rock. Is that what happens in a spiritual

your soul is fractured exposing it to new
light after long darkness and dense compression? The
longer the life, the more fractured slices that are possible, in my
spliced deck. Perhaps I have five slices, one for each decade, or maybe 50,
the number of my birthday. My birthday,
it has been mine

for 50 end of summer days. My voluptuous
summer days filled with bare limbs and
clear lapping water. Fifty days in which to self-deprecate, to reflect and
to scribble a few words of affirmation that mark the passage of time.
A time that feels
like a tactile arch—the part of me that is 50, is today.


Second Place

Sonnet to Jim
by Bill Quist

You were the ‘50s before Rock and Roll –
Hank Williams and whiskey and black &
white Maverick episodes on our old TV,
a football helmet without a face guard.

As I grew you devolved from idol to man.
Despite your stand as tougher than leather,
time did what it sometimes does to mortals:
steady decline but subtle, gradual,

like your ’73 black Bonneville –
muscle turning to rust, Rilke’s Panther
pacing in its cage, a bone handled knife
gone dull from lack of honing. Then nothing

but dust. Now you are the prairie itself:
all around me nowhere to be found.


Third Place

Balder Blames Odin for a Lousy Childhood
by Bill Quist

In drunken frenzy, you and
your berserk heroes raged on,
oblivious to pain, fear, and those
of us who could not get near you.

Your mead is no help here.
I won’t reach Valhalla, cannot
escape my fear, as Hel claims me.
The beast I battle will not be tamed.

What good came of your drunken
feast? Did you conquer the universe,
you, mighty Norse champion of champions-
You, who could not even save your own

son, you on your flying horse, as the
sea crashed over Ragnarok, and you and
the sky were swallowed by the Wolf, and
laughing, you died?


Thank you to everyone who submitted to the contest! The poems were read and judged blind by Bruce Roseland. These poems will be published in the Spring 2018 publication of Pasque Petals. The other submitted poems will be considered for publication in that issue as well.

Featured image by Vincent Parsons under the creative commons license on Flickr.

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