Poetry Winners

By Karen Bishop Mikkelsen


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