Monday, July 18, 2016

July Poetry Challenge Winners - Garden Poems

Photo by Lisa Morris

Judge Connie Walle says she looked for the “wow factor” as she read submissions for the July Poetry Challenge. And she found it. As third place, she selected a poem of six short lines per stanza, focused literally on the vegetable garden:

Zucchini Bread

Silver sky warns rain
Basket in hand
I rush to the garden
Red tomatoes
past their prime
glow amber

Thirsty leaves
cling to sleeves
Sticky fingers sort
twist, tug
until I’ve collected

Cucumbers long gone
allow dandelions
to dwell
in dried out pools
The garden is done
I say aloud

Always more zucchini
One long as my arm
hides among stems
strong as celery ribs
shreds to exactly
three cups

~ Barbara Toboni

For second place, Walle picked a somewhat less literal poem written in tercets, a poem that suggests that it is gardens, not fences, that make good neighbors.


is what we keep rereading into months,
decades, the unremembered squares of years
fenced between us, crabgrass, brown-edged lilacs;

is what we memorize like dog-eared almanacs,
or blandly hopeful seed packs
flattened in bottom drawers;

is what—across rusting shelves in backyard sheds—
become our snippets of care and compost,
stacked rectangles of warning. And yet,

we make good neighbors, two yards of well-
mowed yearning, tamed gardeners still coveting
each other’s most unruly seasons.

~ Marjorie Maddox

“History” was published in True, False, None of the Above © 2016.

The first place poem, in free verse, takes the prompt in a different direction. The poet draws on astrology as well as the garden, as she writes a memorial poem, a poem that hints at more than it tells.

Martha’s Solar Return In Her Last Saturn Cycle
for Martha Courtot 1942-2000

Here we are, vining into each other at the end of your 55 between sky and earth,
Weaponized reasons could have detained us at the border, kept us from this
party, this knowing, this sustaining of the will to
play, persist, presume to go out to the garden
yet again, in spite of joints and

bones protesting at the bending down, the carrying of water;
in spite of all inside that whimpers, “What’s the use? There’s bound to be too much sun or
rain, or if the seed should make its miracle of fruit
there’s bound to be a critter faster than myself, to steal it away.”
Look at our poems – see how we’ve chronicled the tooth marks left by
denizens of realms we never wanted to believe in
and don’t remember beckoning into our mulchy beds - yes, there’s reams
of evidence against the garden party.

Martha, I love you for your will, your
amendments to the soil, your tending of the
roots, the way you mark the seasons, the uninvited guests,
the starts that went to seed, the times you turned away, the volunteers, the
heirlooms harvested. I love you for your fierce face and for
all the times you turned around

~ Barbara Ruth

Congratulations to the winning poets. Remember that they own copyright to their poems, so please do not copy and distribute the poems without their consent. And thanks to Connie Walle for serving as the July judge.


Barbara Ruth says she is an old, arthritic, tree-loving, hypertensive, lesbian, epileptic, fibromyalgic Potowatomee, Ashkenazi Jewish, Welsh, chemically hypersensitive, neurodivergent daughter of Yemaya, spoonie, writer and photographer. She lives in San Jose, California USA in abundant poverty with one woman and one cat, both adorable. She is a repeat winner.
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Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published eleven collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else  (Wipf and Stock Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (2017 Fomite), and over 450 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), she also has published two children’s books with several forthcoming. For more information, please see
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Barbara Toboni is a writer, blogger, and poet. Her work has appeared in literary journals, and anthologies including Cup of Comfort, Sisters Born, Sisters Found, and The Beat Goes On. She is the author of two chapbooks: Undertow, published in 2011, and Water Over Time, published in 2013. Her website is

Check back early next month for the August Poetry Challenge. You could be a winner!

© Wilda Morris