Saturday, January 28, 2023

January 2023 winners: Peace Poems


Apple Blossoms by Martin Johnson Heade, 1873

Cleveland Museum of Art

Peace is an important subject for poets to write about. If we share visions of peace, maybe we can help bring peace to ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, our country, our world. Or at least, maybe we can spark a desire to work for peace among others.

Thank you to Peggy Trojan for serving as judge this month. She selected three winning poems. The authors retain copyright to their own poems. Here is the first-place poem:


Apple Blossoms

I remember my grandmother’s apple trees.
They made a canopy over the yard
that rambled to a dusty road.
In August, when we celebrated her birthday,
we cousins harvested the windfall fruit
to lob at each other in make-believe battle.

Because my family did not visit in spring,
I never saw the trees in bloom.
I wonder what that looked like, to gaze
skyward and see a lattice of flowers
visited by intent bees, to breathe air heavy
with fragrance for a few blissful weeks.

The orchard is gone, my grandmother long dead,
and yet I see her walking under those trees
after saying goodbye to seven sons who left
for war, as she waited for their letters to arrive.
She gazed at a burst of blossoms on V-E day,
and welcomed her sons home in apple time.

~ Irene Alderson

The judge says, “This poem weaves together several experiences of peace, gently told.  Apple blossoms, visits to Grandma’s house, the camaraderie of cousins, the peace of V-E day and the return of seven sons.  Lovely.”

Tell Me What You Think Means Peace

Tell me, Old Willow Tree,
What is peace?
Tell me what you think means peace.

Peace is the wind through my branches and leaves.
Peace is the quiet time when one can grieve.
Peace is allowance for hearts to believe.
That, my child, is peace.

Tell me, Great Grizzly Bear,
What is peace?
Tell me what you think means peace.

Peace is enough food so that all may eat.
Peace is the space for a long winter’s sleep.
Peace is the right to feel things way down deep.
That, my child, is peace.

Tell me, Dear Neighbor,
What is peace?
Tell me what you think means peace.

Peace is the sound of the blessings we send.
Peace is confidence placed in a friend.
Peace is the evidence hatred can end.
That, my child, is peace.

~ Thomas Hemminger

Peggy Trojan selected this poem as second place. “As co-inhabitants of the only planet known to sustain life, this poem reminds us that we are not the only form that recognizes peace.  The poet implies as children of the earth, we are still learning.”

For third place, she selected “Two Paths.”

Two Paths  

He was not a hugger; he was a tank guy,
on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge,
who often related experiences to his youth
fighting the Nazis
When I was afraid as a child, he would respond,
Don’t worry,
Hell on Wheels has you!
His solution to calm my fears
about the bomb shelter our neighbors had:
No problem,
I would dig us a foxhole!
This, akin to hiding under our desks at school

When he sent me to Europe,
I was seventeen,
He clenched me with the tightest embrace when I got off the plane,
then whispered in my ear,
I’m glad you didn’t have to go the way I did

He is gone now

I should have thanked him for a peaceful path

~ Mitzi Dorton

“A child who feels safe knows peace,” says the judge. “This poem pays tribute to a father who instilled this belief, an assurance carried into adulthood.”


Thank you to all those who entered the January Poetry Challenge. I hope to see a new poem from you next month!



Irene Alderson performs regularly with the Bosso Poetry Company, a collective of writers and musicians based in Minneapolis. Her poetry has appeared online, on the Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride, and in her self-published chapbook, Flying Between the Snows. She lives with her husband, who fills their home with music.

Mitzi Dorton is author of the book, Chief Corn Tassel. Her poetry is in Rattle, SEMO Press, Sheila-Na-Gig/Women of Appalachia Project, and Willowdown Books.

Thomas Hemminger is an elementary music teacher living in Dallas, Texas with his wife and son. As a music teacher, Thomas writes many songs and poems for his classroom. He just recently had two poems published on, his very first publications. His personal and professional hero is Mr. Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Being the son of an English Language Arts teacher, Thomas grew up surrounded by prose and poetry. Furthermore, his mother’s love of verse, and her own talented pen, impressed a deep love for the art within him. Away from the classroom, Thomas enjoys spending time with his family going hiking, camping, and fishing when the North Texas weather permits.

Peggy Trojan's new release, a collection about her father, titled PA, won second in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook contest in 2022. It won Honorable Mention for the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for 2022.  Her previous 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. She is the author of two full collections and five chapbooks. Her books are available on Amazon. 

© Wilda Morris