Triad Winning Poems 2018
By Marilyn Zelke Windau
Kay Saunders Memorial New Poet
She dreams in those quiet hours
when staff and residents are undisturbed.
She gathers her blanket around her arms,
covers most of her face, protects her feet
with the elastic spa socks that someone—
who? gave her.
This room looks like all the others:
two beds, two dressers, two lamps, two tvs,
one clock, one window, one closet.
There are one hundred seventy four squares
on the floor. It’s linoleum, brown with tiny lines.
She doesn’t know how long she’s been here.
She doesn’t know where she lived before.
She doesn’t remember her childhood,
except for a color: lavender.
Was that the color of her room all those years ago?
She dreams colors, though she can’t name them.
In her sleep, she recites J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan—
loves to fly over Never Never,
thinks Smee is an ok dude,
never met a crocodile she could trust.
She’s not sure if she’s asleep when she’s awake.
Smells emanate from down a hallway.
Sleepwalking to them affords gifts
of food, drink, mainline talkers, crybabies,
rattling dishes, televised game shows.
Sometimes she sings out loud.
“Day do run run run.”
“Round the ball clear down the field boys.”
“I saw you standing alone,
without a dream in your heart.”
There’s a man who shares her room.
One of the beds, dressers, lamps, tvs are his.
He smiles sometimes and calls her “Sweety.”
Most of the time he wanders and wonders.
He’s her new friend.
“Husband” a nurse called him.
What does that mean?
By Gary Haren
Only a small sign
in a rusted metal frame
above the ordinary door,
like any door leading
from a downtown street
to an upstairs apartment, but this door
a creaking wooden stair,
steps worn smooth and round,
to a narrow, dark and smoky room
where men with pool sticks in their hands
stood round a long line of green-top tables
with shaded light bulbs hanging low
and tipped brown bottles to their lips
and spread their legs, crouched low and leaned
over their sticks
and smiles of silver smoke rose
from their nostrils.
Some men sat on benches
along the walls
from the shadows.
Others shuffled and dealt
at tables in the back, but all of them always
whenever they heard the sound,
and I felt their hollow eyes follow me
on that day
when I went down
the creaking wooden stair.
By Maryann Hurtt
Theme: Small Talk
my mother was crazy
the tiny daisy but not really a daisy
flower I see on my hike today
it's end of July hot
and I wait for sweet berries
listen, all these pieces
do fit together
the way strawberries
the wild ones
into her palm
and the flea-bane
made her drop down
to caress their miniature lives
I believe she knew their language
small talk really
but her heart savvy
in the how and why and where
Homecoming for the Ages
By R. Chesney
Kate Saunders Memorial New Poet
We first saw her nesting
alongside the air conditioner unit
her hind legs walking in place
like a band majorette.
She was small for a snapper.
Returning here where she herself hatched,
generation after generation her descendents
here before this house stood,
here before this community planted its roots,
here before human kind walked this land.
After a few hours she slowly
traipsed to the corner of the garage,
her neck peeking out from within
a carpet of scraggly poppy foliage,
the bright red flowers contrasting
her bullet grey armor.
Five minutes later she was gone,
Within minutes at the end of the driveway,
my wife exited her car, walked
into the middle of the road
and began directing traffic
like an off duty police officer.
“Get a towel!”
We gently started to nudge the snapper into a grocery
box, one with handle slots and an ill-fitting cover,
the towel over the turtle’s head—
she temperamental, her neck
lashing out from side to side
rapid bursts—lightning charged
like some prehistoric dinosaur.
Fortunately, her smaller soccer ball size
made this an easier task.
Once snuggled inside the box,
the cover loosely attached—
we loaded our cargo in the green garden wagon
and began a slow journey creek ward
where months hence her clutch will follow.
Rubber gloved, I grab the box
from the bottom, the mildew mud smell
of creek water in the air—
gently turning the box to ease her out
the towel loosely swaddled around her body—
there we left her with hopes she would travel
west rather than retrace her steps
back to the road and the distant cornfield.
Exhausted. The running water would provide
Later that evening I covered her nest
with a disk golf basket turned upside down
staking it to ward off nocturnal predators.
How I remember last spring
when I was startled from deep sleep
by the hellish screeches of raccoons
fighting for newly hatched turtle eggs.
The next morning broken shells
lay scattered across the hill
like locust tree blossoms.
Yes, this is Nature’s way—
but caretakers we remain
for even the least of these—the snappers.
West Fork of the Kickapoo River
By Martha Jackson Kaplan
A rush of strong wind pushes against my face
A gust of bird-chirps and rustle of grasses
tumble down the slope that marks land
where the river veers quietly
through the valley, cutting the breech,
carving tough sandstone and rough
lime of the old Ocooch hills.
I want words that braid like bunch grass
of bottom lands, sprung from roots deep
in the Kickapoo’s winding wetlands
to sing riffs and riffles, wreck bedrock
into shallows, gravel the pools, and sand the silty
bottoms with song for
spawning trout, to oxbow channels
into melodies of water, to wild wayward
algae from water plants to let them breathe
light into unlit waters. I want
just one more day along this river
to list the grasses, sedges, twigs and branches
that branch over the west fork
and shade living creatures,
the insects, river mites, crayfish, frogs and lizards,
to list the un-named specie waiting
for words in river, veer and verge
along the ridges of the Driftless Zone, the old, un-glaciated,
un-scraped hills, water-carved, root-locked
in dogwood, speckled alder and yellow birch.
I want days as unfinished as bedrock and river,
enumerations as dense as flora and fauna, words
as tough as dolomite.
By Gene James Gilbert
Kay Saunders Memorial New Poet Prize
2nd Honorable Mention
It was nine months after your passing, Dad,
your death that came too suddenly,
that Ma found your P-E-N
(4 Across: a three letter word for writing implement)
on the carpeted bedroom floor,
beneath the headboard and frame
the movers dismantled,
placed on the truck
with the packed boxes
for her move to W-I-S-C-O-N-S-I-N
(21 Down: nine letters for 30th State).
She shared with me the anger you carried for D-A-Y-S,
D blank blank S,
(the period between sunrise and sunset, plural)
over the loss of your two dollar crosswords pen.
You refused to use a pencil,
no indecisive gum rubbing erasures for Y-O-U
(pronoun, used with reference to the person addressed).
Being your oldest child,
I know I carry the blessings and the curses.
I know this two buck pen in my hand
gives me access to puzzles
I never desired to solve
before your death.
But now I grasp this scepter,
that somehow you have passed to me
for some way of making our family legacy
(something that cannot be removed).