Landscape Category Contest Winners 2020

Thanks so much to everyone who submitted to our annual contest! We are excited to announce the winners of the landscape category: Holly Moseley, John Nelson, and Donna Kelly! Our contest judge was Courtney Huse Wika. Here are the winning poems:

FIRST PLACE

Battle Creek, June 2014
By Holly Moseley
 
Mother Earth is not as hospitable as one might wish.
Amid the undulating contours of ridges and swales
Sharp buttes rise, gullies and washouts lie hidden.
This is a clover year, lush fields of bright yellow blooms
Beckon one to enjoy, to relax.
The old ones know that underneath lies hardpan,
That creeks are named Alkali for good reason,
And that this lush green beauty
Covers a harsh reality.
 
Yet today the old ones come
To search these undulating rises,
Looking especially hard and carefully
Into the gullies and washouts.
Riding their horses and four-wheelers,
The only transport suitable for this terrain,
They pray that Mother Earth has shown some care
For a child of the world, a young woman,
Swept away by the force of flood.
 
They will follow the river,
Checking the contours long forgotten by drought
But remembered from years before
When other searches became necessary,
When they were not the old ones,
But helpers, following the sad experience
Of their elders.
Clover years are lovely,
But they come with a price.
 


SECOND PLACE

Turning Back  
By John Nelson
                       
Once I would have flown into the grinding snow
Like an engineer, full throttle, riding my fast train,
Fully in trust of the road that lay before me
Like a pair of rails, winding and disappearing.
 
Once I would have pushed it even harder, leaning over the wheel,
Conscious fully of the finger drifts ahead, knowing the wind,
Coming in sideways, was piling the snow by tree rows, where,
As I break through, the snow engulfs the car, and I fly blindly into it.
 
But now I look into that horizontal snowfall and see the road
Coming to an end, cars appearing out of the white blanket going too fast,
Too fast, the centerline a shadowy trace, trees and telephone poles leaning
In to warn me: turn back, turn back, this world won’t last forever.
 


THIRD PLACE

November Four Seven Bravo Alpha
By Donna Kelly
 
Two years before each of us
became an eyewitness to events we could not foresee-
could not-
still cannot-
will never-
fully fathom,
 
there was another unsettling blue sky,
another distance,
another autumnal flight of fate
to which we were riveted,
 
anchored by our united powerlessness,
reminded of the subordinate nature of our selves,
taught by the plane’s unnavigated path
that just as clouds morph and disappear:
So, go we.
 
The scope of our authority is limited,
extremely,
constantly,
and it rides on circumstances,
such as the sudden loss of cabin pressure at a high altitude.
 
See, our breaths can be stolen in a matter of seconds.
See, even we can drown thousands of feet above the oceans.
 
Golf is a game where the slightest makes the difference:
the tweak of the lower back,
the placement of the thumb,
the spread of the feet at a not-so-superstitious distance,
the clarity of image of the end of an airborne flight.
 
The swing is more about grace,
than power.
 
Our hour is unknown to us
and it may come after a time of redemption-
or not-
but this is common to all of us:
its arrival is never convenient.
 
We structure the entirety of our days around numbers –
on the top right-hand corner of a work computer,
or on the over-populated face of a cell phone,
or on a VCR, or a microwave –
digits marking our arrival or departure from a school,
our arrival or departure from a workplace,
the arrival of a certified nursing assistant to wheel us
to the bathroom or to bingo.
 
In truth, it is time that regulates us,
and our most important meeting is unscheduled.
 
Four months before the Learjet
descended into the ground
at a hundred times the force of gravity
two miles southwest of Mina,
scarring the field with a
ten-foot deep crater,
Payne Stewart studied a slope,
calculated distance,
force,
grade.
 
It was an uphill putt,
and when he landed it softly into the cup,
there was the celebratory lunging of the body,
the throwing, sans javelin, of fist to air,
the iconic mule-kick of the right leg.
 
He stood,
in the drizzle,
his forearms bear,
calves-covered to plus-fours’ edge with white socks,
answering questions into a microphone,
with a serene distraction,
that seemed like subdued joy,
and he said,
 
“Phil’s going to have his opportunities again,
mine might be on the short list.”
 
 
At first,
when news of the northwest-bound plane was broadcast,
the occupants’ names were not disclosed.
We were told that a Learjet had taken off from Orlando,
that it was supposed to be headed to Texas,
that its crew was unresponsive shortly after takeoff,
and that it was cruising on autopilot,
a ghost plane,
over the heartland.
 
There was a professional golfer onboard.
This news was as mysterious, as it was horrific,
and then,
when his identity was reported,
it was inconceivable.
 
The flight time was three hours and fifty-four minutes.
The jet cut across Mississippi and Tennessee,
passed over Payne Stewart’s birth state of Missouri,
pitched high above Iowa,
and spiraled downward into a field in Edmunds County,
underneath a sheet of reeling South Dakota sky.
 
See, we cannot think of everything.
See, we do not even know where our final resting place will be.
 
 
 

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