Poetry Winners

By Karen Bishop Mikkelsen

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    Cradle Song

    Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest First Place Winner
    Lullaby, my child, and let me love
    Your sleeping purity, so innocent
    Of all the conflict I have felt this day.
    Sleep now, and let me smile to recollect
    The tides that left a treasure on my shore.
    The flows of guilt and subsequent resolve
    Come later in the quiet time alone
    With God: my anger at my anger with
    My charge, my child. Are you the grain of sand,
    My irritant, that I must make a pearl?
    Lullaby. Then let your lustre glow—
    Divinity I seldom see by day
    (My pride, your willfulness obscure the sheen)—
    While I remember what I love in you.
    And if I grudge to bear the oyster’s part,
    I but forget the artist without art
    Is nothing; and my Lord, if I do well,
    Will love the gem and magnify the shell.

    The Garden

    Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest Second Place Winner
    I spoke with the garden again today.
    Sad-eyed I listened as she whispered
    Of times and seasons,
    Beginnings and ends.
    How hard it was to go in a way so different
    From how she came.
    Tender green buds peeking through the soil,
    Wet with morning’s tears
    And warmed by loving sun,
    She grew to rich adulthood.
    And then, when use was gone, she stiffened,
    And became desert-like, windblown and tired.
    Then tender-bud beginnings were torn root from root
    And cast upon the pile.
    Oh, Lord, am I a garden?
    I know now, I, a young green shoot,
    Still soaking up your radiance and love,
    Can hardly find a reason to complain.
    But I’d like to say a word about my going—
    I’d like to do my going as I came.
    When (all too soon) it’s time for me to go,
    I’d like to follow through my first rememberings
    Of dark warm soil and thrilling morning light.
    I’d like to feel rich soil breaking round me,
    As I spire up toward another sky;
    Another morning’s dew upon my shoulders,
    A warm breeze blowing like a mother’s sigh.

    A Tapestry of Love

    Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest Third Place Winner
    At first, we wove such tiny threads of hope
    Pale and fragile fibers picked in haste
    Flimsy on the loom, our work hung loose
    Full of holes, like faded antique lace
    We each had brought a pattern to create
    And only shared its secrets bit by bit
    Then painfully unraveled what was done
    And rearranged the pieces so they fit
    We chose some bolder colors, faith and work
    And watched a new design begin to form
    Something better than we’d either had in mind
    A pattern bright and cheerful, sweet and warm
    We dared claim every lovely hue our own
    But soon saw need of dark as well as light
    To make our art stand out in bold relief
    Experience whispered even black looked right
    We found a better rhythm, worked as one
    Choosing basic threads both good and strong
    Allowing each a preference here and there
    Ignoring when the other’s choice went wrong
    But now, we weave in beauty as a team
    Forming cloth so tight it cannot tear
    Mastering the art, the loom, ourselves
    Designing durable fabric that will wear
    A tapestry of love we now have made
    The warp and woof and weave our common goal
    With faith and work and love our homespun joys
    We wove ourselves together flesh and soul

    How Could Young Love Know?

    Ensign Poetry Contest First Place Winner
    In young love they came, a straw mattress
    coddling cold bones, puncheon floors
    shivering bare feet calloused
    by wild stubble in valley plantings.
    Her passions sang in harmony with hearthside
    melting pot; concocted love’s tunes
    while baking cornmeal dodgers
    for late-night suppers.
    He harnessed love sunlong while plowing
    furrows or felling wood
    until prayer at the coverlets
    warmed winter’s cold kisses.
    How could young love know it was to be
    portioned like seed corn for spring crops,
    punished as lye-hominy into something it was not,
    dredged in labor’s tears and gut hunger?
    Yet, love so crazy tired and threadbare
    was sustained, hand in hand
    by shining touches of moon and a child’s smile
    sweet as mountain berries preserved
    in wild honey.

    Farmer

    Ensign Poetry Contest Third Place Winner

    detail of an oil on canvas by A. Bertram

    You could say he waits for mail
    from the tree stump near his box,
    built on a rough post like the one
    your father soaked in diesel oil
    and sank next to the road.
    But he looks to the companion sky, unsolitary.
    His hands are leather, tanned
    deep and thick. They grip the hoe
    on which he leans forward slightly.
    You can smell the dryness of the year,
    cheat grass browning along the lane,
    a few oxeye daisies.
    You could say he is thirsty—
    has been for years—from the dry
    creases around his lips.
    Permanent squint lines face the sun,
    his skin the russet of deep autumn.
    Perhaps he grew from boyhood
    on this land. His cap is weighted
    to its fit by dust and sweat.
    The denim jacket frays at the cuffs,
    faded shoulders slope and wrinkle forward.
    What you know is this:
    if you reach to touch
    the pale stubble of his whiskers—
    perhaps three days growth—you will feel
    the soft rasp of your father’s face,
    warmed and ripened with the harvest.

    Firstling

    Ensign Poetry Contest Second Place Winner
    One solitary blade of life
    the first to break
    through winter’s hold
    fires its emerald salience
    against the ashen sky
    and speaks for all its
    unborn brothers
    deep within the
    dark brown soil
    of spring