|Photo by Suzanne Metzel. Used by Permission|
Aging proved to be a popular topic for poets! A number of publishable poems were received. Judge Donna Pucciani selected a poem by Kelly Boyer Sagert for third place:
Song of a Life
The crone huddles and weeps about winter
then slowly folds
a piece of paper into precise pleats.
she carefully cuts the shape of a lily
then opens up
the paper with accordion folds.
When the snow melts
she plans to dance by lilies in the fields
just one more time.
Opening her accordion at dawn,
Wrinkles spring to life: an old woman’s smile.
Of this poem, Pucciani says, “The writer captures a moment of art and courage, combining winter images with the vision of an elderly woman cutting a paper lily, a sign of spring and hope and a kind of resurrection, however brief.”
Second place goes to Maryann Hurtt.
Glass Bottles and Ice
down long hallways
the old man propels his wheelchair
gets to the window
as the temperature drops
and flakes of snow pile
his mind winds back ninety years
to blades tied on shoes
milk to be delivered
on ice covered streets
at dawn before scattered coal dust
ruined the glide
but for that little while
and now remembers so clearly
the grace of glass bottles
the memory enough today
of flight even
Pucciani explained her selection of this poem: “A century’s flashback—so much said in such a small space! Not one superfluous word, yet I could hear the clink of the milk bottles at dawn and the sound of the skates. Well-crafted, focused, and utterly beautiful.”
Nicole Callräm and Donna Pucciani independently selected the same poem as the best poem submitted, so first place goes to Jonathan Yungkans.
Placed in a Puzzling Light, and Moving*
and persimmon trees
rooted in shale
are pages in a book
or the center of a yellow rosebud
and note legs
which have grown from the sides of words,
and wonder which
of these words
given time in a jade-colored chrysalis
to change meaning
as words and caterpillars are apt to do
in the shadow
of a butterfly
across my reckoning—
fluttering from a blue plumbago hedge
on its yearly
on their migration southbound,
in and out of focus.
Age encourages them to misbehave
like errant kids,
following the bad habit of my mind
climb where they’ve been told not to go—
if a habit can be called bad
to be a child,
watching sentences writhe on paper
in quiet amazement,
waiting for syntax to take wing,
to catch light and a breeze.
~ Jonathan Yungkans
*Title taken from the name-poem to the collection Some Trees by John Ashbery
Puccini says this is “a brilliant first-person narrative exploring the mind and failing vision of an elder, and integrating the imagery of nature with the love of words on a page. Skillfully developed, beautifully paced, with a dignity of voice and diction.”
Nicole Callräm, the other judge, agreed: "I appreciate the way the poet plays with patterns of nature and how this idea interacts with the physical and mental trends of aging. The imagery is bright and fresh and the feeling of bugs and words marching across the page and through the poem itself fills the verse with light and life. The last two lines are beautiful, injecting breath and air into the closing of this moment."
You can read the poem by John Ashbery from which Yungkans took his title at https://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/some-trees.html.
Each poet retains copyright of his or her own poem.
Congratulations to these three winners for their excellent poems, and also to the three poets selected for Honorable Mentions.
First honorable mention goes to Ron Pullins for his poem, “The desert proves.” Pucciani’s comment: “Simplicity and careful craft characterize this brief glimpse into a relationship and the externalities of geography. A beauty.” Callräm also commented on Pullins’ poem: "The use of line breaks and spareness of language paint vivid imagery that jumps off the page and engages the reader. I was immediately drawn to the setting, and think that framing the topic of aging as the lifecycle of desert flora is bold and compelling. The poet's use of repetition lends a sense of calm and eternity to the piece."
The other two honorable mentions, with Puccini’s comments are:
“Slipping” by Christy Schwan. “A realistic family portrait, all too familiar in its exploration of inner and outer details of encroaching dementia.”
“Assurance” by Peggy Trojan. “Lovely piece, clear and focused in its apt contrast of past and present affections.”
Nicole Callräm is a nomadic bureaucrat and disciple of existence in all her life-affirming and confusing manifestations. She adores rideshare bikes, red wine, and Osmanthus flowers (preferably a mix of the three...all at once). Nicole has been published in A Shanghai Poetry Zine, Nude Studio, Kissing Dynamite, and Alluvium. You can find her on Twitter at @YiminNicole.
Maryann Hurtt’s midlife crisis was playing hockey with Sheboygan's Lady Lakers. But maybe more than anything she savors the memory of skating with her father on a canal next to the Potomac River. Her new book, Once Upon a Tar Creek: Mining for Voices came out 2021.
Donna Pucciani has a Ph.D. in Humanities from NYU and taught at the high school and college level for several decades. She is the author of six books and three chapbooks of poetry. Now retired from teaching, she lives in Wheaton and continues to write.
Ron Pullins is a fiction writer, playwright, and poet working in Tucson AZ. His works in fiction, poetry and drama have been published in numerous journals including Typishly, Southwest Review, Shenandoah, etc. A list can be found at www.pullins.com
Kelly Boyer Sagert is a freelance writer and poet living in Lorain, Ohio. She is the scriptwriter for the Emmy-nominated/award-winning documentary, “Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story.”
Christy Schwan is a former hippie chick turned business owner capitalist. Now retired, she is pursuing an "encore" career as an author/poet. A native Hoosier, rock hound, wild berry picker, wildflower seeker, astronomy studier, and quiet sports lover of kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing and loon spotting. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Ariel Anthology, 8142 Review, and 2022 Wisconsin Poet's Calendar.
Peggy Trojan, age eighty-nine, published her first poem when she was seventy-seven. Her latest release, River, won second in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook contest in 2021. It also won an award of Outstanding Achievement from the Wisconsin Library Association. Sheis the author of two full collections and five chapbooks. Her books areavailable on Amazon.
Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Gyroscope Review, Panoply, Synkroniciti and a number of other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Competition and was published by Tebor Bach in 2021.
Check back on February 1 for the next Poetry Challenge.
© Wilda Morris