Saturday, December 1, 2018

December Poetry Challenge: Peace-Themed Poems

Allegory of Peace by Giorgio Vasari (16th century Florentine artist) National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Let It Begin With Me

The air hummed with promise—unexpected
in those troubled times. Hot cider spiced
its way through the crowded room
and tins of homemade cookies sparkled
in the hands of children.

The scent of cut pine met
the draft of ozoned cold each time
the basement door swung open
into the small candlelit church.

Toward the end of Mass, the young priest asked
for a volunteer to lead us in a last song.
No one moved. Weary of such efforts,
our pockets and faith on empty.
Finally, a boy of ten walked to the altar
and began singing Let there be peace on earth…
His high-pitched voice, unsteady at first, grew
into the strength of the music while we grew
into his.

One by one we stood, reaching out to strangers,
and when the last note ended, we remainded still.

Forty years later, I watch white flakes spark
the cobalt sky and the memory of that long ago
song flickers and catches fire. Looking out into the glow
of stars, the pillowed accumulation,
I hear the song weave through the white
screen of night, the voice of the child,
and despite the weight of the snow-heavy world,
I remember—let it begin with me.

~ Mary Jo Balistreri

© Mary Jo Balistreri

Mary Jo thought you might enjoy the background of this poem. The ten-year-old that sang a capella was her son, Michael. She was shocked to see him walk to the altar and begin. He knew the words by heart which was another surprise. That he looked so earnest and yet at ease, she knew he believed in that song. It was a proud moment and one filled with joy.

“Let it begin with me” was first published by in November, 2011. It has been republished in Balistreri’s book, Gathering the Harvest, and in The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poetry (Winter 2017). In September, of this year, Mary Jo’s a new book of poetry, "Still," was released by Future Cycle Press. Mary Jo is a Wisconsin poet. For more information, please visit her at

The December Challenge:

The challenge for December is a poem on the theme of PEACE. The theme can be taken in many different directions. Be creative!

Your poem may be free verse or formal. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem.

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. Single-space. Note that the blog format does not accommodate long lines; if they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the November 2018 winners).  Read previous poems on the blog to see what line lengths can be accommodated.

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is December 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language (some children read this blog). No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.

If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “December Poetry Challenge Submission” in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio that can be printed with your poem if you are a winner this month. Please put your name and bio UNDER the poem in your email. If the poem has been published before, please put that information UNDER the poem also.

Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem.

Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment (no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred but longer poems will be considered.

© Wilda Morris

Friday, November 30, 2018

November Poetry Challenge - Migrants, Refugees, Expats

Vittore Carpaccio
The Flight into Egypt
c. 1515
One of the most well-known stories of refugees

Property of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In the public domain.

Thank you to all who entered the November Poetry Challenge. It was difficult to choose the winners. I finally selected three poems that took very different approaches. I was a little surprised that no one wrote about the flight of Mary and Joseph into Egypt to save their son, Jesus, from the king who wanted him dead.

Lennart Lundh was not the only poet who looked back to ancient literature. His poem, “Lilith,” is based on the legend that Adam had a wife before the creation of Eve, but she was unsuitable (the reasons vary according to which version of the legend you read), and was expelled from the Garden of Eden, hence, “the first émigré, the first immigrant woman.” Here is Lundh’s well-crafted poem:


There is lightning in the high clouds to the north,
but distance cancels the thunder.
The flashes reach me, but the cycle is incomplete.

The sky turns darker, eclipses the healing moon
and stars.

I am the first émigré, the first immigrant woman.
I leave as a stranger, I arrive as the same.
With no husband, no sons, the cycle is incomplete.

The clouds roll nearer. The air cools and turns electric.

My daughters and I speak our only language, and
are damned.
We eat the only food we know, and we are cursed.
We would belong, but the cycle is incomplete.

The distance closes. The thunder makes the children
turn in their sleep.

My labor is required, but undervalued.
My wisdom is needed, but not sought.
Our bodies are desired, then discarded. The cycle
is incomplete.

Silence drops, is suddenly carried away by a thousand
fingers drumming.

The rain falls, warm and soft, carrying hope and salvation,
but the ground is hard. The promise is rejected, flows
in gutters.
The cycle is incomplete.

~ Lennart Lundh 

"Lilith" first appeared in Lennart Lundh’s collection, Jazz Me, in 2016.

Deetje J. Wildes poem is simple, minimalist, but makes her point clearly.

Two Walls

An ocean of people
surges north
toward a long wall
put there
to keep them out.

I recall
another wall,
a different president.
He shouted,
“Mister Gorbachev,
tear down this wall!”

~ Deetje J. Wildes

Tricia Knoll’s poem is more personal. The images have the possibility of drawing the reader in. We can see those “clutches of old men and women from churches” of which the poet is a part, as well as women “babes in arms with blankets / over their heads” in the rain. Despite the flow of the poem, we are hardly prepared for the gut punch of the ending.

Portland’s ICE Center As the Crow Flies

Less than two miles from the horse-race track
where the Japanese reported first for detention.

Clutches of old men and women from churches,
we gather under umbrellas, watch the line of golden people

wait in the chill to be called in for processing
in a huge glass and steel building too crowded

to hold them all. More women 
than men, babes in arms with blankets 

over their heads, strollers and toddlers.
Fear over documents tucked in folders.

Black-tinted ICE vans pull through the metal
fence, disappear as twenty-foot gates clang down. 

Through front doors, ICE agents with guns and pepper spray
monitor metal detectors, guide people to remove shoes,

sit on a bench, be swallowed up with the paperwork:
documents, residency, translation, apprehension. 

After an hour, a small woman with a brave smile exits. 
She may stay six months more. The witnesses applaud. 

A man here for twenty years has never been called in
before to be processed, to be questioned:

where he lives, what work he does for the County.
He seems less afraid than a little girl

with braids who burrows into her mother’s skirt. 
This cold queue waits for processing, a cannery word 

that once meant Oregon berries, salmon, and green beans. 
Now it means people. Processed people.

~ Tricia Knoll

This poem was first published in This Rough Beast by Indolent Press in 2017, a website. 

The December Poetry Challenge will be posted sometime tomorrow.

Watch for my new book, Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick, which will be published next year by Kelsay Books, as we celebrate Herman Melville’s 200th birthday.

Keep writing!


Tricia Knoll recently moved to Vermont from Portland, Oregon where she lived not far from this ICE detention center and frequently wrote letters to judges in support of releasing men in ICE detention who had lived in the United States for many years with families. For more of her work, visit

Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since 1965.

Deetje J. Wildes is an enthusiastic member of Western Wisconsin Christian Writers Guild. She enjoys making music and experimenting with visual arts.

© Wilda Morris