Photo Contest

2008 Poetry Contest Winners

First Place
Category 1 (ages 7-11):

The Painter’s Painting

Elizabeth Platz
Mantorville, MN

The painter’s standing by his desk in thought.
His focus now: night scenes—nocturnes. It fills
His mind. This task! So difficult it is
To illustrate the land lit up at night.
But now to paint. His subject now: stampede!
The charging horse and rider flee. And now
To paint the frenzied scene: the canvas stretched,
The oils laid out, the brushes set, the jar
Of thinner filled. His mind is racing now.
What paints to use?—so many different hues
That could portray this image all aglow!
He stops in thought, mind far away, until
He sits down at the desk and starts to paint.
At first: a wash. Dark colors streak the cloth.
The green and black and blue and gray and brown,
A splash of red: the driving rain. Now paint
The rider, horse in frenzied flight. Behind,
The horses, scattered, run from lightning’s strike.
The details finished, one last stroke and now
Stampede by Lightning’s done—a painting fine.

Second Place
Category 1 (ages 7-11):

Western Storm

Mary Woods
Frankfort, IL

The skies are dark, the cattle still as stone,
The brown horse snorts his nervousness as well,
A storm is brewing, brewing, in the clouds.

The rain thuds down like hooves upon the plain,
The black bull lifts his head and sniffs the air,
The cows are shuff’ling, lowering their horns.

Thunder booms across the deep green sky,
Rain is hard, the wind is blowing, blowing,
The men shout as the black bull stamps his hooves.

Lightning streaks from heavy clouds above,
The brown horse dashes ’cross the muddy plain,
A shrilly neigh; a stampede in a storm.

A blur of hide and horn, the cattle pound,
Away from man and storm, hooves shake the ground,
The black bull leads the charge into the hills.

The thunder rolls one last time; storms move on,
The hoof-prints in the dust are just a trace
Of what had happened there…the western storm.

Third Place
Category 1 (ages 7-11):

Stampede by Lightning

Selah Kabakoro
Twin Falls, ID

With cowboy hats and chaps and spurs a blur
The cattle charge through field of green and gold
The sound of pounding hooves and longhorns lowing
Is music to the weary drovers ear

The smell of rain so fragrant in the air
And dust and grass and sweat and horse and boot
All mingle to create cowboy cologne
Amid the chaos, dust and flying mane.

The landscape sizzles in the blazing heat
While thunder from the heavens rumbles low
A flash of lightening hurries us toward home
The frightened cattle run as if on fire

“Yee-Haw!” “Whoo Hoo!” “Git-Along Li’l Dog!” “Whoa Nellie!”
The horses buck and toss as if they’re loco
The frenzied flash of man and horse and cow
And lightning strikes again to speed us home

Honorable Mention
Category 1 (ages 7-11):

Mesa Madness

Grace Taber
Fairfax, VA

The lightning cracks, and brightens stormy night.
A herd of cattle see and dash away.
The rancher cannot stem the frightened flood
Of bovines, mad with terror, speeding off.
All he can do is grasp his horse’s mane
And hope and pray that he will not fall off.
Again the lightning flashes; horse is spooked.
He neighs and gallops far, insane with fear.
The wild stampede continues all the night.
Loud hoofbeats pound across the rain-soaked ground,
Continue thudding, thud, thud, thud, away.
Whenever lightning strikes, the horse rears up
And screams, much like a pig caught in a fence.
He’s driv’n the cows to high-pitched frenzy now.
The cattle’s plaintive moos ring through the night.
O’er mud plateaus the desperate dash sweeps on.
The lips of cows and horse are flecked with foam.
They cannot stop; the lightning spurs them on.
They run, they run, they run: they will not stop
Until the storm, and lightning spur, have ceased.

Honorable Mention
Category 1 (ages 7-11):

Of Lightning and Me

Josiah Parsons
Tullahoma, TN

Of Lightning:
I flash across the sky and into sight.
I see a stampede moving ’cross the plain.
Two desperate riders try to stop the flow-
The cattle look as desperate as the horse.
They run like wind that sweeps along the grass.
We’re all afraid of thunderstorms sometimes.

Of Me:
Like the rider, I corral my fears
When thunder clashes right above my head,
When lightning flashes deep across the sky.
It makes me nervous when I hear it pour.
In lighter rain I like to be outside;
The rain feels wonderful around my head.
It’s rain that makes the plants and trees to grow.
The lightning fills my soul with wondrous awe.
It’s static in the form of brightest light.
It lasts a second then it goes away.

First Place
Category 2 (ages 12-15):


Elise Parsons
Tullahoma, TN

A man came by this room today at nine.
He led a group of cultured friends and guests.
He waved a hand and said, “The Oxbow, that;
It’s been here quite a time.” The party paused.
“Magnificent,” said one. “Quite excellent.”
Another said, “But, sir, the colors are
Too gray.” A man with spectacles put in,
“The color’s fine, the texture isn’t right.”
My favorite of them looked again and said,
“I’ve never been there, so I do not know
What you can see by standing on that hill,
Or what the river leads to, why it bends…
It’s lovely, though.” But when the tour was gone
The tree stretched out his fingers to the sky
And said, “I’ve seen the view around this hill.
I’ve looked out over it, and nothing else.
I’ve colored ninety-seven winter rings
While rabbits marked the snow with lively feet
And ninety-seven summer’s worth of storms
Have pulled the branches from my learning trunk.
I know the Oxbow—the towns it sees
On either side; the way its feather-ice
Comes on in autumn, melts in early spring.
My seed fell here, this place has been my home
Since here the artist’s brush traced in my shape.”

Second Place
Category 2 (ages 12-15):

The Creekside

Matthew Harper
Lynchburg, VA

The music of the running woodland stream,
accomp’nied by the merry songster birds,
lulls peacefully to sleep the list’ning ear.
The silver nets upon the em’rald sward,
embroidered with Aurora’s diamond dew,
recall to mind Arachnid’s fatal sneer
which brought on her irreverent soul the wrath
of the Divine. The twisted sycamores,
with gnarled root, and robed in mossy green,
and jewel-encrusted with the bindweed blooms,
dispel the cares and fears of those who will
by calling up a misty reverie
of scenes and joys long buried in their past,
as if in the enchanted orchards fair,
which pure Iduna Simple-hearted tends,
they sprouted far away. The lily boats
remind one of the sacred lotuses
whose magic nectar plunged the drinker deep
into oblivion. The wondrous thought,
that so magnificent a world as this
is but a ghost and shadow of the light
and bliss which was to be; here bird and beast
and tree and flow’r and sound and smell and taste
persuade a man to say, “This is my home!”

Third Place
Category 2 (ages 12-15):


Alicia Constant
Albuquerque, NM

The sweetened smell of rain has kissed my face,
The thunderclouds untamed begin to pile,
And wild wind combs fingers through my hair.
I am a valley-dweller, I suppose,
Yet in the yearning wind I hear my name.

The frenzied birds are wheeling into flight
And seeking shelter from the shades of gray,
The chilling breath of wind, the leaden clouds
That make the day become as black as coal.
Their shadows creep to cover all I know.

And I press on—I cannot answer why—
Sink breathless on the wizened trunk, amazed,
As sun-streaks dance upon the oxbow lake.
It seems the rain will never kiss its face
As it kissed mine, each drop a piece of sky.

I am a valley-dweller, I suppose,
But wilderness begins to sing my name.
Her wailing mournful, joyful, sweet, and sad.
Before me crouch the trees no hand has sown;
Behind me wait my family and my home.

The jagged bluffs must stay their mournful call;
I cannot follow two divided paths.
Yet, deep inside my heart, I feel the cry
Of rain. Here jeweled fingers wrench me back
I turn to go—the valley is my home.

Honorable Mention
Category 2 (ages 12-15):

Second Dawn

Constance Chan
Torrance, CA

The rain has purged the tiny island out,
The dusty pathways are all cleaned and dried.
The day had worn an apron made of grey,
But now the light had found her dancing shoes.
Some ones had fled from waning hope and fear,
But we who gather here survived with hope.
The mystic yonder of the mountains blue
Now holds a promise of a second dawn.
The trees all wake up to the rising light,
And shake their leaves to dry the rainy dew.
The meadows sparkle with a new appeal,
Wet diamonds cling to every blade of grass,
And even dirt rejoices. See the hues
That sunlight brushed with rain as glowing paint.
Each minute breathes, exhilarated by
The new. The past alarm had drained the birds’
Grand songs. Like dawn, the light at last returns!
I’ll start the secret law, my singing friends.

So, sometimes pain is needed for the good
When night is dark men may behold the stars
Some tears are needed for our hope to shine
The rain may slash and tear to fully clean,
But what is born is infinitely sweet,
The rain may purge and clear and go away.
Still we who know the secret keep our hope.

Honorable Mention
Category 2 (ages 12-15):

The Work of His Hands

Lucy Alessio
Oakland, MI

The sky is like a bowl of gentle blue
As now the darkened storm clouds finally break
It deepens, softens, to a lilac dusk;
The mounting clouds are lavender and pearl
And rivers clear reflect the rosy light

The rain clouds drifting idly with the wind
Obscure the splendid orb of blazing gold
A murky veil of mist and gloomy crags
They clothe the peak of mountain stretching high
But still the sunrays bold burst forth once more

The valley, steeped in mist and summer’s rain
Glitters as the light of setting sun
Falls upon the folds of dewy rose
To make each rain-drop sparkle like a gem
While glossy leaves bow down beneath the breeze

The mountain cliffs are rugged, broken rock
They rise majestic, perilous and sheer
The steepest face is wooded; oak and pine
Lend grandeur to the peak that pierces sky
And forest flowers grace the sylvan slopes

High above, in glory free and wild
An oak tree, tall and kingly, guards the dale
A testimony to the pow’r of God
Who shaped the earth with thunders of His voice,
And looked upon His work, and called it good

First Place
Category 3 (ages 16-19):

Second Dimension

Anna Leon
Mt. Airy, MD

Someone once decided that the world
was round. They were wrong—it is flat,
a level, four-cornered thing of coloured oil
made to look like wood and steel and stone
and cast cement—and Time has left us here.

No earth, no air, the sky a spot of blue;
the tunnel leads you only to an edge
impenetrable, while spines of splintering rails
tramp away, eternal wooden lines
to an existence separate, a city
off the map—but Time still binds us here.

No eyes here but the charred glass pores embedded
in the brick box; no bones but logs, no breath
but vapour left by charcoal smoke and fog;
no soul remains but memory of things
that never were—for Time evades us here.

The painter lied; this city lies too far
beyond the reach of any mortal man,
inapproachable from any end.
Though worlds may fall and stars crash in the sea,
all wars become but rumours in this frame—
some whispers hold the end of Time is near.

All else has fled, yet minds run rampant here.
For shame, they cry, Time is but a masquerade,
A farce dreamed up by fools left in the sun.
How can we trust such words?—while all their lives
fall round their feet; for Time has found us here.

Second Place
Category 3 (ages 16-19):

Westing Brook Station

Kristen Clermont
Springfield, VA

I trace the turning of a listless leaf
Thrown hard among the rubble dipping down—
Then caught—and caught to blow with deepest train.
The leaf is bound forever to the rail.
The tunnel breaths and moans with his new haunt
Which pushes down his long and narrow throat.
For all complaining, he will swallow till
The train emerges out…by Westing Brook.
Too late to catch it now—and much too soon—
I’ve years of mulching, baby-sitting still.
My parents always said they first met here
When she would watch the trains and clouds go by
And he would watch for her and tip his hat.
His hat was darker than his face with coal;
He shoveled for himself the largest load,
And Mama always thought of him that way.
But sixteen years and I since church bells rang,
A boiler blew outside of Westing Brook.
O, Papa. Papa. Papa. I still see
You smile at me each time a train goes by.
But Ma was never one to grieve too hard;
She doesn’t understand that it’s okay
To come to where you smile at me again,
To clutch the grate where you first smiled at her,
Be close to you though you are far away;
And trace the turnings of a listless hope—
One misplaced as a leaf on city streets—
And since I blow most free caught where you were,
I wait for life to meet me at the rail.

Third Place
Category 3 (ages 16-19):

Journey: 1948

Rebekah Curry
Lawrence, KS

Perhaps I should not have come here alone
Like this.
She shifted and glanced out to see
The huddled buildings, shuddered. I will have
To live in one of them… She brushed her hair
Out of her eyes and tried to keep awake,
Gazed at the other passengers. They seemed
No kinder than the city they approached
Together in the train. One of them looked
Towards her suspiciously, then turned away.

This is the only place left. Drab scenes flew
Confusedly past at the windowpane.
She stifled a cough. I will not go back
To Europe, never, never, even if
It seems so ugly here.
The dead walls rose
As if to threaten her or warn that she
Be watchful. She closed her eyes, and memory
Advanced. The rooms above her parents’ shop,
Lace curtains, scented soap. Her mother’s voice
That sang as she worked—then it was shattered
With the glass in the downstairs window, changed to
Screaming, as nightmares filled the streets outside,
Drew ever closer, like a pack of wolves
Converging on their prey. No, I shouldn’t
I mustn’t think

But now a rasping shout
Resounded through the train. “Belmont City!”
She stood and tightly gripped her small valise.
The grinding rails had stopped; the buildings loomed,
The chimneys billowed smoke. And, swept away,
She strove with the confusion of the crowd.

Honorable Mention
Category 3 (ages 16-19):

City View

Ellen Rose Meyers
Low Moor, IA

The vision sits restrained, disguised; what lies
Behind those twelve enticing, half-drawn shades?
The city-scents of bus and factory,
A huge and resolute commotion just
Beyond my understanding or my sight—
They cry for me to find the meaning, find
The secrets hidden just for me, to find
My purpose! “Come,” the waiting city calls,
“Come see what gifts I have in store; come learn
It’s always Christmas, never winter here!”

An unimpressive first impression, this.
The building sulk in coats of smutty gray.
This city stinks of train and bus and haste;
Its streets are filled with noise and rush and crowds,
Who spend their lives in endless, aimless toil;
Don’t stop, don’t look, don’t think about the air
Of terrifying apathy. If I
Should linger here, will I be swallowed by
The monstrous whole? Forget my self in heed
Of all the eddying mobs’ wild siren songs?

The calmness strikes me first, how still and firm
The structures are. When I am here, I know
The blessedness of anonymity,
Of resting in my special, private space,
Then going where I will while no one minds,
I see around me faces and facades:
The monochrome of dread and enmity,
The multihues of joy, ambition, peace.
Why can’t all see the inborn beauty here?
It must depend on what you bring to it.

Honorable Mention
Category 3 (ages 16-19):

Another War

Kori Buchanan
Canon, GA

Inside the car he sat and gazed alone.
The train was roaring, people chatting, but
The clamor could not pierce his thoughts that flew
Ahead to reach his journey’s end. He sighed.
“Been here before?” A voice said from behind.
His head jerked ’round—the voice rasped out a laugh.
“I didn't mean to scare ya, soldier boy,”
(For soldier boy he was), “rest easy, see?”
The soldier looked and saw the aging man
Who spoke, and blushing slightly, smiled a bit.
“Old habits die hard.” said he with a shrug.
The old man’s eyes were knowing. “That they do.”
“So, where ya headin’? Do ya know this place?”
The soldier turned back in his seat. “I did.”
He answered briefly. Undeterred, his new
Acquaintance tried again. “Ya got a home?”
“A fam’ly or a sweetheart waitin’ here?”
The soldier drew a breath and closed his eyes.
“Not here. Not anymore.” was all he said.
A lull ensued; the whistle wailed. Again,
The soldier spoke. “You know, it’s not what I
Had planned when over there. Thought I’d come home
And leave the war behind, but now…” He paused.
“Another war is waiting for me here.”
“It’s diff’rent, but the same.” The train was still.
The other trav’lers vanished, but the men
Remained in silence. The old man stretched out
His hand. “May God be with you as you fight.”
The soldier grasped the hand, “He always is,”
And strode away to face his battle ground.