Tuesday, January 29, 2019

January 2019 Poetry Challenge Winners

The Girl Who Wants to Be Herself (Photo furnished by Kathleen Manning Weber

Barbara Robinette, whose poem was used as the prompt this month, judged the submitted poems and selected the following four (in the order in which they appear below. The four are very different from each other, as different as the dreams and wishes expressed in the poems responding to variations on the question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

Silly Question

What do you want to be? The teacher asked.
I want to be me. My retort filled the task.

No, when you grow up she further prodded.
Frowned cherub face, onward I plodded:
I will be a rainbow rider,
swooshing down the colored glider.
I’ll be a sparkly circus queen
bareback on horses. I shall be seen.
A courted princess in a stately castle,
servants hovering, I’ll have no hassle.
Every day my dolls will dance.
We’ll dance to music. We’ll dance in France.
A white coated chef serving fine cuisine
I’ll ride to work in my limousine.
I’ll be an airplane when I swing
I’ll fly so high no bee can sting.
And when at night it’s time to sleep
a cardboard mansion will safely keep
me from the zombies, dragons, and deep.

Do you understand what I want to be?
I want to be me.
I want to be free.

~ Kathleen Manning Weber

Robinette says "’Silly Question’ used good form, three stanzas, with meter and end rhyme.” She picked it as first place despite the fact that she generally prefers free verse because it “answered the prompt well and with music of words. It was a happy, imaginative poem to a child's searching moment answering the teacher's question her own way! I felt it in my bones.”

"Swept Away," the second place poem, “took some time to soak in,” according to the judge. But she kept returning to it, and the pieces fell together.

Swept Away

we were without shirts
or parents
on the swings that day
when judgement swung away
and she
and I
sisters out on a limb
got swept away
not by wind
not by water
but by the little man
in his little hut
with Jesus on the cross
over the bed
as witness one
witness two
watching from the house
our mother
whose silence
made me
what I am...
a writer

~ Mary A. Nelen

The Minute Waltz

It was nighttime, South Dakota hot,
enervating, sticky, breathless.
Locked in my room high under the eaves,
I became a ten-year-old princess trapped
in a tower prison, sent to bed while
it was still light. I sulked, no rescue in sight,
when the German Shepherd next door
brought hope with his intense barking.
Standing tiptoe on my bed, I could
just manage to see car doors open 
and close, kaleidoscopic patterns that spun
into color and activity: a black dress
trimmed in pink satin, a huge orchid bow,
a flowered halter dress, A-line with capped
sleeves, a boy in white twirling a sailor-
suited girl.

It must have been a graduation party
for the big girls, and I listened to silvery
sounds of teenagers laughing, drinking pop
and clinking ice in the tub outside the door.
Voices bubbled, pitched in gay tones
of expectation. The parched desert of my room
felt cooler. Stacks of 45’s and 78’s entered
the buzz and Patti Page sang “Tennessee Waltz.”
Snatches of other bandstand favorites drifted
and hung in the stifling air. Elvis, the Chordettes,
and Brenda Lee wooed their way into hearts
ready for romance.

Later that evening, someone began playing the piano
with the delicacy of a music box and the clarity
of Gramma’s cut crystal, the cool loveliness
of summer rain and the drama of a stormy sky.
I let the music wrap all around me, the wonder
of it wash through me.

That night, a prince floated through my attic
window, came to me not on braids of yellow-gold,
but on woven lines of melody. Chopin unlocked
the music within, “The Minute Waltz,” the key
to myself. Like Rapunzel, I reached out and never let go.                

~ Mary Jo Balistreri

This poem was previously published in Grand Piano Classics

More than A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s

With my thick-as-a-fat-twig #2 pencil
I recorded notes, names,
and numerous infractions
in my Big Chief tablet.

I, "the teacher", made my little brother
write an entire page of I-must-nots,
sent him to an imaginary principal,
and implored him not to sing.

In my tenth year, I rounded up
the neighborhood kids
and played school during all of
June, July, and August.

Dad's old '49 Ford, the same color
as our classroom chalkboard, was perfect
for writing words in cursive with my yellow
over-sized chunk of teacher's chalk.

When I heard Dad coming down the walk
jingling his pocket change, I used my sleeve
to frantically erase my chalkboard
then darted off to save my seat.

I became a fun, loving, and much less
controlling preschool teacher who
instilled a love of learning and
prepared students for thirty-nine years.

Now, retired, I teach my three,
tiny great-grandsons, all smart
whippersnappers who make me
proud to say, "I am a teacher."

~ Linda O'Connell

Poets whose work appears on this blog retain copyright of their own poems.


Mary Jo Balistreri has published three books of poetry, the most recent of which is Still. Her first career was as a concert pianist, as might be surmised from her poem. She has won numerous awards for her poetry, including the coveted Jade Ring, given by the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association. All proceeds from her first two books go to benefit mitochondrial disease research. Visit her website at http://maryjobalistreripoet.com/.

Mary Agnes Nelen rusticates in the wilds of New York State taking photos and writing for Rural Intelligence and GoNomad. "ValleyLocavore" is her nom de internet on Instagram and in the blogosphere (https://thevalleylocavore.blogspot.com/).

A freelance writer, Linda O’Connell, is multi-published in regional, national and international publications. She blogs at https://lindoaoconnell.blogspot.com. Linda may have been called "bossy" as a little girl, but she always knew she had the ability to reach and teach youngsters. Teaching early childhood has been her dream job. 

Kathleen Manning Weber is a diverse writer having written everything from advertising and fund-raising copy, to travel and human-interest stories for newspapers and magazines. She enjoys writing poetry, flash fiction, memoir, and children’s stories. Her poetry has been published multiple times in The Prairie Wind Magazine at Highland Community College, Women’s Stories through the Freeport Art Center, and in collaborative illustrated books through In Print Writers Organization. She lives with her husband and nosy turtle in beautiful northwest Illinois – the best-kept secret – and cherishes frolic and pretend time with her grandchildren ages 5 and 7.

Check back in a few days for the February Poetry Challenge.

© Wilda Morris