Wednesday, September 28, 2022

September 2022 Winners: Mysteries


River Scene by Salomon van Ruysdael

It was interesting to read all the poems on the theme of “mysteries” submitted this month. Some focused on mystery stories. Others, including the first place winner, were related to the mysteries of life

Meditation by the River

 I am the rain
            becoming a river;
I am the mystery
            of transformation.

I am a leaf
            floating downriver;
I am the mystery
            of transportation.

I am a rock
            in the middle of the river;
I am the mystery
            of time’s abrasions.

I am my tears
            dissolving in the river;
I am the mystery
            of restoration.

~ Jane Ellen Glasser

Glasser’s poem is well-structured and profound. The mysteries in this poem call us to think deeply. Glasser does a good job of combining abstract ideas with concrete objects. I read all the poems and let them sit for a few days, but this one stayed on my mind.


A Digression:

Before moving on to the second-place poem, I have a few comments to add to my previous discussion about the Nancy Drew mysteries. Many people I have spoken with this month have happy memories of reading that set of mysteries. My husband told me when he was a kid, he thought the Nancy Drew books were much better than the Hardy Boys series!

I had hoped to photograph some of my old Nancy Drew books for the post at the beginning of the month but failed to find any. I may have passed them on to someone else. I checked out four of the mysteries from my local library and photographed them. I decided to read one before returning them and was soon engrossed in The Message in the Hollow Oak. When I got to the chapter where Nancy was in St. Louis visiting the Gateway Arch, I realized the original, written in the 1930s could not have mentioned the Arch since it was not built until the 1960s. I asked the library to find me a copy of the novel before it’s revision in the 1960s because I wanted to see what Nancy had seen in St. Louis in the original.

In the 1935 edition, not only did Nancy not visit the Arch—she did not go to St. Louis. Most of the action takes place along the Canadian border because Nancy had won a small piece of property in Canada. It turns out that the “revised” version of The Message in the Hollow Oak is not really what I would call a revision. It is an entirely different story. A different plot, and a very different history to the use of the oak for leaving messages! Of course, Nancy and her father and her friends George and Bess are all there. I enjoyed reading both.


The second-place poem is by Paula Lambert, who will be familiar to readers of The Poetry Challenge from her previous wins.

The Hypochondriac’s Question
to the Woman with Synesthesia

If seven is blue,
what’s dark blue, indigo, navy?
Is six-and-a-half a cloud-filled sky?

The pain in my side is an empty house.
There’s nobody home. The pain is here,
on my left. My ribcage is a birdcage.
There’s a sparrow inside. The doctor
doesn’t understand. I thought you might.

I heard you say your doorbell smells
like bacon. Mine smells like a wound.
It doesn’t ring very often. It smells like
undressing. Not taking off your clothes—
like lifting a bandage. Like stagnation
and healing at the same time.

If seven is blue, what’s dark blue, indigo,
melancholy? Sometimes what smells
sweet is so sweet I can feel the sticky
on my fingers. Sometimes burnt toast
makes me cry. The doctor doesn’t
understand. The nurse just purses
her lips. I thought it seemed like,
maybe, you’d understand.

The pain in my chest is a birdcage. There’s
a sparrow inside. When we were children,
we were taught to shoot sparrows in the barn.
It was how we brought down flight.
A barn is a big empty house. There’s nobody
home but the sparrow inside.

I wondered, could you tell me, if the number
seven is blue, how do you calculate sky?

~ Paula J. Lambert

This poem was originally published in Lambert’s book, The Sudden Seduction of Gravity (Full/Crescent Press 2012). 

Lambert’s poem is unique. Synesthesia, a condition in which the stimulation of one of the senses results in experiencing another of the senses. In this poem, Lambert ties the mysteries of synesthesia with medical mysteries often labeled as hypochondria. It is likely that many people who have been considered hypochondriacs over the years actually were suffering from unidentified illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or Fibromyalgia.


Winning poets retain copyright on their poems.


Honorable Mentions:

“Wikipedia Bronde And The Case Of The Missing Multiverse” by Lara Dolphin
“Where Memories Hide” by Christy Schwan
“The Mystery of the 13 Clues” by Karen A VandenBos

“Found Objects #2” by Lennart Lundh



A native of Pennsylvania, Lara Dolphin is an attorney, nurse, wife and mom of four amazing kids. Her first chapbook, In Search Of The Wondrous Whole, was published by Alien Buddha Press. Her most recent chapbook, Chronicle Of Lost Moments, is available from Dancing Girl Press. 

Jane Ellen Glasser’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, such as The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Georgia Review. In the past she served as the poetry critic for The Virginian-Pilot, poetry editor for the Ghent Quarterly and Lady Jane’s Miscellany, and co-founder of the nonprofit arts organization and journal New Virginia Review. She won the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry for Light Persists (2006), and the Poetica Publishing Chapbook Contest for The Long Life (2011). Jane Ellen Glasser: Selected Poems(2019), Staying Afloat during a Plague (2021). and Crow Songs (2021) are her recent collections. To learn more about the poet and her work, visit

Paula J. Lambert is an award-winning poet from Columbus, Ohio. Her most recent collection is The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (Future Cycle 2022). Learn more at

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

Christy Schwan is a native Hoosier author/poet living in Wisconsin. She's a 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, Museletter, Ariel Anthology, 8142 Review, Wisconsin Poet's Calendar (2022 and 2023), and Bramble Lit Mag.

Once upon a time, Karen A VandenBos was born on a warm July morn in Kalamazoo, MI. Her youth was nourished by books and writing. When adulthood opened the door, she was detoured to working in health care and obtained her PhD in Holistic Health. She tumbled into the realm of retirement landing on her feet and was reunited with her creative spark. She can now be found contributing to two online writing groups where she unleashes her imagination and trusts her pen to take her where she needs to go. Her writing has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Verse-Virtual, The Rye Whiskey Review and Sweetycat Press Anthologies while some of her photographs have been published in Blue Heron Review.




© Wilda Morris