Winning Portrait Poems FA22

Thank you so much to everyone who entered our annual poetry contest. This year Dana Yost judged the landscape category, and Lee Ann Roripaugh judged the portrait category. Please enjoy this year’s winning poems 🙂

First Place


By Cameron Brooks

Wind—unlike the likely droughts
and stubbled summer lawn,

or the cicadas’ tymbal cry;
unlike the absolute emptiness

of fields under snow at night
with their highways like blue stitches;

unlike the austere Cooper’s hawks
perched upon fence posts

and splintered billboards—wind
was the one thing she refused

to abide: how it lashes the prairie,
the porch swing, the sky, penetrating

the slightest cracks of her
worn house, her worn face.

Second Place


By Marcella Remund

We dominoed four Ponderosas down the west 
slope of Inktop just before the sky broke open, 
hard rain like icy knife blades. Darrin bought 

me coffee and a grilled cheese at Everett’s to
wait it out. Then the hail, deluge of golf balls 
pock-marking my pickup again, stripping paint. 

I wait for a break, jump the back stairs by 
two’s and three’s, up to my place. Clinking 
dishes and Jack yelling in the café below 

blend with driving rain in an off-key bell 
choir. Inside, Zombie snakes and curls 
around my leg, her hoarse meow and flicking

tail my signal to dump the last of the tuna 
on a chipped saucer. Rain tomorrow 
will mean white bread soaked in milk 

this week. I turn on the TV, then fall on 
the bed still soaked and shedding sawdust. 
Zombie curls twice in my armpit, snores 

or wheezes, I can’t tell which. In half-sleep, 
I hear my father’s voice, You’re Hill City 
trash, boy. You’ll never go anywhere. 

Though it’s only a memory, it’s louder 
than his calls I stopped taking, louder 
than my mother begging in her letters. Louder

than a felled pine breaking over a boulder. 
Watch me, I answer out loud. You just watch.
When this rain lets up, you watch me climb.

Third Place

Liturgy of the Hours 

By Ruth Harper

During the pandemic, I had discipline.
Fearful of unraveling mentally, physically,
I sought structure, 
following the order of the day
like a convent nun.
Lauds marked first awareness of dawn.
Prime meant the sacrament
of morning coffee: rebirth, rededication.
Terce became time for a Psalm, meditation, 
and a modest pilgrimage through the neighborhood.
At Sext I broke bread—no holy wafer—
toast with peanut butter and an apple.
None was observed with deep breathing 
(that sometimes became sleep).
Vespers placed the longed-for chalice 
of wine into my hand.
Compline brought reflection, 
recommitment to intentions.
Matins, the hour of mystery:
whose voice did I hear
whispering your prayers will save you?

Freed from lockdown,
I flounder. 
No need for strict routine,
I drift. I sit too much. I ruminate.
My rosary of blessings 
has become a chain of worry beads.
Though we are told the pandemic is over,
I feel unsafe, uneasy, lied to.

I know what to do. 
But now I resist, an unhappy postulant
wary of routine.
The hours still come and go.
But I have wandered from the cloister
and no longer hear
the calls to prayer.

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