Winning Portrait Poems from the 2020 Annual Contest

Congratulations to the winning poets of the annual contest! This year Lee Ann Roripaugh judged the portrait category. She said there were so many wonderful poems she really enjoyed reading them all. Thank you to everyone who entered, and enjoy reading these poems.

First Place: “Morning Dew on Stone”

by Erika Saunders

The killdeer didn’t return this spring
to the rock bed where they’ve nested
for several years, with speckled eggs

hiding in plain sight. Self-conscious
of the charade, they would try to distract
us with their broken-winged display.

The killdeer didn’t return this spring
to chest puff and warning call to every
walked dog that walked by. For several

years, with speckled eggs successfully
hatching, the neighbors would congregate
discussing the merits of such a high trafficked

nesting site. The killdeer didn’t return
this spring when the rock bed thawed,
and the neighbors were all busy holding

their breath. Attempting to keep out
the virus that hides in plain sight like
morning dew on stone. I barely noticed

that the killdeer didn’t return this spring
to drop their speckled eggs in the rock
bed, like mottled tombstones, busy as I was
perfecting my own broken-winged display.


Bio:
Erika Saunders is the author of Limes and Compromise 
(Finishing Line Press, 2019). Her poetry has been included 
in Cholla Needles, Watershed, The Red Wheelbarrow, 
Noble Gas Quarterly, Pasque Petals, Prairie Winds and 
Oakwood Literary Magazine which awarded her the 2017 Anita Bahr Award 
for Outstanding Contributor. She lives in South Dakota with her husband and three children.

Second Place: “Lakota”

by Annette Gagliardi

Who knew the school auditorium would be (the place)
where I found my hair in braids, where the rhythmic beat
of the drums burned into my heart, where I found my soul
in the jingling of the bells on the healing dresses,
bouncing in the circle to the rhythm of the beat.
 
The beaded work depicted scenes I had dreamed.
I wondered why I never knew my heritage
back at Red Iron Lake, back on the reservation—
teepees and fire rings, venison and pheasant,
fishing in Clear Lake under the glowing moon.
 
The Black Hills forests, so full of pine trees
were hidden within the stretched
and tanned hide of the drum, waiting to tell
the tale of my life to me, to reveal
my heritage in a heartbeat.
 
 
Bio:
Annette has poetry published or forthcoming 
in the Gideon Poetry Review, OWS Ink LLC, 
Dreamers Creative Writing Online, Down in the Dirt Online Magazine, 
the Moccasin, vol. LXXXI, the Poetic Bond VIII, ASPS Sandpiper, 
Dreamers Creative Writing Year 1 Anthology and 
Upon Waking: 58 Voices Speaking Out From The Shadow of Abuse. 
She teaches poetry at a nearby elementary school as a volunteer. 
She has won two national and four state awards for her poetry.
 

Third Place: “To the Pioneer Ancestors”

by Cindy Forsburg

Maybe it didn’t look like love.
When the wind sliced through the gaps in the boards
and joined the murky darkness,
the unknown outside the windows teasing your fear
howling, why? Why?
When the sun scorched the year’s promise,
a cruel mirage shimmering in the fields,
sweltering your bright hopes
and mocking, how? How?
In a place too vast
for the mind to comprehend,
in a life too close
for the heart to remain unguarded,
you kept your head down
and learned to stop asking
those questions.
 
But still you braved the wild sky,
forging the tall grasses,
to create the future on the vast prairie.
Babies were soothed, and gardens planted;
schools built and church bells chimed,
and the seeds of the present
were planted.
The will to stay alive is hope
and as long as there is life,
that hope cultivates the tiny shoots
of vision for a better life,
sheltering the roots of love.
Listen...
the meadowlark sings again this spring,
and this morning from the far horizon
a train calls into today,
sounding yes. Yes.
 
 Bio:
Cindy Forsburg has lived in South Dakota all her life 
and feels connected to the sky and the prairie. 
She lives in Sioux Falls with her husband.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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