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