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 🙂
FORBEARANCE 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.
TIMBER 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.
Liturgy of the Hours By Ruth Harper During the pandemic, I had discipline. Fearful of unraveling mentally, physically, emotionally, 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.