Photo: Sonnet Contest organizer Ted Haaland with Winona Poet Laureates past and present Ken McCollough and Emilio DeGrazia, Youth Winner Raelynn C. Peter and GRSF Artistic Director Doug Scholz-Carlson
Quasimodo – John McBride
Incomplete – Ruth Asch
Editor – Michael W. Fleming
Winona Area Winners
[Winona County and adjacent counties]
Day (Housesitting Sonnet) – James S. McCormick
After Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking” – Scott F. Lowery
The First Vultures of Spring – Mark Metzler
[entrants 17 and under]
They Say It’s True – Katie O’Malley
To Lose the Moon – Raelynn C. Peter
Rickard Lane, Natchitoches – James S. McCormick
Castle Mountain – Rosanne Singer
Vanitas – Artist Unknown – Bo Niles
Epistle – Jane Blanchard
Birding in Fog – Scott Wiggerman
Noah – Marion Novick
The Sequel to As You Like It – Gail White
Oh, must we dream our dreams and have them, too? – Carolyn A. Martin
Sonnet for a Pool Shark – Brad W. Buchanan
Sonnet to Security Cameras – Gregg Sapp
Quasimodo, Hunchbacked Bell-Ringer
of Notre Dame
He has his hour. He shakes the iron bell
Of our infirmity. It rends the sky,
The sky, him. His wild heart is fiercely audible
In each toll and boom and reverberating reply.
For this is Notre Dame, the Gothic pinnacle
Piercing the impenetrable blue of Heaven’s high seat.
With the gargoyles he exists, like them, in riddle
Of a lofty kingdom for the desolate.
Birds scatter as the great bell fills the sky,
And his own fierce cry, answering each echo,
Sings out his joy each day to mount so high,
Only to fall back to earth, despised, a cripple.
Some day he’ll fly to Heaven! while below, unaware,
The mute throng is entering the darkened house of prayer.
When our first climax, like a liquid star
shooting glory, ebbed soft through the blue
horizon, I said ‘Let’s stay as we are!
A single, twin-souled creature, me and you.’
And although soon our bodies had to part,
we had one life, one meaning from that night
as earth and water, lock and key; each heart
so loved, I can not now believe your flight;
so bound, I can not cling, nor set you free.
And I will not harangue you at the last
with argument or rosy-tainted plea;
I cannot bear to falsify our past
just contemplate two simple things for me:
a river-bed dust-dry, a lockless key.
Parsing syntax, remodeling dashes, dots,
and commas, blowing the whistle on all
the errant, misbegotten words — that’s not
worth a drop of her ink, sweat, alcohol,
blood, or coffee, not when weighed against her
honest work of marshaling the silence. She
gently hushes the stagehands and lowers
the houselights, focuses the spot: Tell me
your story, Mister Book, Ms. Manuscript,
Citizen Poem, I’m here, ready to be
impressed. Do your stuff, love me. You’re equipped
to go the distance? Will I get to meet
the genie in your bottle? Nothing’s wrong —
the only voice is your voice. Sing your song.
Michael W. Fleming
Winona Area Winner
Day (Housesitting Sonnet)
The day itself is my desire…—Bronk
Love, it wasn’t their house itself. Or not
Exactly. I’d been longing for the time alone,
The quiet among needlepointed cushions
And wreaths of withies and statice, a fussy cat,
A sad, stumbling Doberman (that wouldn’t eat
Unless told to) my only charges. Pen-
And-ink sketches—from life—of battling stallions,
Wallpaper that ringed the nursery in Polly put
The kettle on—Troubling? Night, I read
Or played piano. Day, below their pale
Headboard, I awoke alone: above the eves,
Or in their one Canadian cherry (now dead),
A mating jay in bliss’s anguish. Still,
They’d warned me not to let you in, love.
James S. McCormick
Winona Area Winner
After Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking”
Right at the end, the grass finds its way back
to full-blast green, and dahlias blaze again—
red bright enough to burn through the glaze
of next week’s first hard frost? Not quite, so burnt
on memory’s film instead, at die-back’s brink.
Give us a smile, then, for the months ahead.
Juncos again fill the buckthorn thickets,
flicking their tails as if they’d never left:
stand-ins for the part of me that goes away
a while, avoiding summer’s sleepless heat.
Now dreams resume their extra layers, Ted,
laying in their stores before the wind and snow.
Let’s learn again the dance of the not-yet-dead
and yes, in dreaming, take our waking slow.
Scott F. Lowery
Winona Area Winner
The First Vultures of Spring
I move the binoculars to my eyes,
look for the first sign of spring in the sky.
I have charted the day they return each year.
This year later than they should be I fear.
The snow has come and gone and come again,
now melting with the sun and warm west wind.
Then I see them. First one, then two, then thirty
Turning into an updraft, stunning and free,
tumbling together over the valley,
as if they’re praying some forgotten creed,
hovering momentarily over the field,
then diving on what the thaw has revealed.
Some say they’re a prophet of coming death.
To me, the sure sign of our spring’s first breath.
They Say It’s True
Knowledge is given and taken away,
Snatched by envied talons and greedy claws,
Placed carefully to set our minds astray
And molded, twisted for a selfish cause.
Ideas we have all come to know as real,
Only labeled as such because they said,
You’ll be rewarded if you do no evil,
Be kind, in return you’ll be given bread.
Wed well and your future will be golden,
But a man must wed woman, and not man.
Say you’ll rot in hell if rules are broken,
If they’re not then in heaven you will stand.
How naïve we are believing in truth,
That grew from the blind eyes of all our roots.
To Lose the Moon
Remember when you used to be my moon?
Seeing you was the best part of my night.
Then you would leave and I’d begin to swoon,
But soon return, face shining just as bright.
Sometimes I feared I lost you; My heart would yearn.
I worried as I watched you disappear
That you might reach the sun and slowly burn,
But you’d return and be my shining sphere.
Except one night you took a different path.
I lost the pull that kept you close to me.
And now you face the universe’s wrath.
But finally, my moon, you are set free.
Each night is blind, my moons are down to none
And now you are another planets sun.
Raelynn C. Peter
Rickard Lane, Natchitoches
In the ditch roadside, ibises raise to daylight
And spent tulips the sharp arc of their wings’
White. In the garden fire-ants pick vermiculite
Between rosemary and scrubby mint dozing
Through midmorning. Around noon a collarless
Fice arrives to nose through daffodil stalks
Taller than she is. Past crimson Japanese
Camellias, sunlight leans against the back
Fence with fidgety, finger-thin lizards.
Towards sunset turtledoves call in the redbuds;
From the crape myrtle the cats slip from the yard.
Then moonrise: beneath unopened magnolia buds
Raccoons root, then trundle off; in the field
A shadowy mare dreams a gift of Jonagolds.
James S. McCormick
You are not the shape or scale of longing,
your iceberg tip cutting the clouds and sky,
snow thorn even in the heat of late July.
The steely brow of your crags, threatening,
is made for those who crave dangerous love,
thrill that your lake below is emerald,
a jewel that never loses its chill.
I am paddling to an opposite cove
where landscape cradles me as a tree’s bow
might a bird. I will curl up on green hills,
neither arrogant nor diminished, home
the place of balance, the soft curve below
the crown. Let someone else storm the castle,
I’ve found the spot where I want to lie down.
Tahoma Park, MD
Vanitas – Artist Unknown
Two branches, once-pleached, reach past the brow
of an oaken table, its planked face worm-
bored and scabbed with use. Upon this worn
and unclothed board lies a single glowing
apple next to a half-torn crust of bread.
A goblet, tipped onto its rim, drips lees
onto the floor below three frost-crimped leaves
that flaunt old-lady veins, matte-dull and dead
to summer’s sap. A candle, guttered, forms
a drizzled shawl to shroud itself. But where,
I ask you, is the hairy haunch of hare,
the spotted moth, the ladybird, the worm?
Where once a harvest spilt forth its seed
Is this all that’s left, this residue of greed?
New York, NY
Dear Mr. JoS. A. Bank, Esquire, I
am writing to complain about the way
my son and I were treated yesterday
when we had special merchandise to buy.
In short, accessories were needed for
a new tuxedo—so, a shirt with studs,
a bowtie, and a cummerbund: mere duds
were what we found inside your double door.
A manager did greet us, but he sent
the latest hire to make the sale, or not;
the fellow measured sizes, then forgot
that finding them should be his next intent.
Both seemed to want us gone, yet all was fine,
since we went home and ordered—done!—online.
Birding in Fog
A cataract of fog enshrouds the lake,
a putty-gray that birds must love—they’re out
in force, in flight. I can’t believe my luck:
a heron like a quiet satellite;
an egret, white as paper; cormorants
with racing on their minds; not one, but two
tough red-tailed hawks, their eyes intent and dense;
among the ducks and geese, the pigeon crew,
the real find—a dozen gulls appear.
I don’t believe I’ve seen them here before,
but as I doubt, the flock takes wing and veers
into the filmy mist, away from shore,
where they become a grainy negative,
and then a fade, a memory to save.
Lying drunk and naked in his tent
He sees the blasted rainbow yet again,
Its feeble mud-reflected image meant
To compensate him for the moment when
The elephant protective of her calf,
The single stoat, the extra peccary,
The fearful and immobilized giraffe,
The children reaching, all relentlessly
Lose purchase in a fluid arabesque
Of wave, tusk, head, hand, spray.
Against these blameless in the gray grotesque
He shuts his eyes. He turns his head away.
Against these many unimaginable sounds
He shuts his ears. And it is God who drowns.
The Sequel to As You Like It
It seems now I was happiest in Arden,
teasing Orlando, being boys together,
able to play bird-of-a-different feather
before identities had time to harden.
Of course I’m glad we married in the end
and glad to be in women’s clothes again,
but why can’t he still let me be his friend
and grant that I’m the smart one, now and then?
Celia would say a wife must put aside
romantic love’s illusions and forget
the glamour of the- bridegroom and the bride.
It’s only common sense, I know. And yet
I’ve told my girls about the magic wood.
I hope that soon they’ll run away for good.
Breaux Bridge, LA
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
– Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel
One morning, by design or happenstance,
you know you don’t belong. The nun-black veil
and A-line dress don’t fit. Old dogmas fail
to anchor who you are. Obedience
is not the vow that hurts since you can pray
and walk and work according to the rules
from morning chant until night silence soothes
the steady rhythms of a rigid day.
Nor is it poverty. You know that things
don’t count. But chastity is hard to bear
when your young heart has never learned to share
a passion or a kiss. Take off your ring
and veil. Lay your black dress aside. Unmake
the bed you made and dream yourself awake.
Carolyn A. Martin
Sonnet for a Pool Shark
To break a perfect shape, you smash the thought
of spheres against a plane on which they spin.
The chaos this creates is what you sought—
to lose control is normal—shoot again.
The next time there is no such randomness—
you cannot chalk your misses up to chance.
You have to choose an angle to address—
deflect your slant intentions with a glance.
These thumps and clicks reveal the truth of aim,
or otherwise. The smooth projectiles roll
towards the pockets built into this game
to house the curt trajectories you hole,
and threats of summary endings summon you
to see these strict collisions safely through.
Brad W. Buchanan
Sonnet to Security Cameras
No longer blind, digital justice scans
apportioned vistas with unblinking aim.
Soulless observers log reconnaissance
in service to a program’s narrow frame.
As I trespass the machine’s scrutiny,
I seethe under its prying, constant stare,
and bristle beneath the indignity
of being made binary, unawares.
The ogling, electronic lens thus gawks
like the scolding conscience of a deranged
ego designed to hound, to haunt, to stalk.
Always, by being observed, we are changed.
Stare back at the eye, and the faces it hides,
for they can view you, but can’t see inside.