Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest Winners

By Lynette K. Allen


Disciples at Gennesaret

First Place
Late in the day, the wind comes down
And wails across the Sea of Galilee.
Lashing grasses on the hills,
It lunges past the rocks
And slashes,
Wave from wave,
Into a churning deep.
Men have been known to perish
In these evening storms;
But some,
While sinking in the perilous depths,
Have reached,
And lived.
Those who know of fishing
Pull their nets and wait
Until the waters heal—
Until the wind falls off,
Sighing out across the desert,
Searching for the soothing Voice.

Harvester: Elder Kovila from Kenya

Second Place
In mundane measures he speaks
Of factory, farm, and city where
The day-to-day of life is manufactured
In plain words that speak of Here but
Ah! his narrow hands beat out
The stresses of a different weaving
In accents of lion-colored grasses
Undulating with sun and drums.
There the ebony shining faces begin
To sing, waiting in white fields.

Light

Honorable Mention
The lampglow
on my daughter’s blonde hair
forms a halo
where she reads across the table,
the grain of oakwood between us
spiraled like galaxies and polished
to hold the light.
To hold the light
in these late hours we have our lamps
and books. She reads from a New Testament
and I from The Art of Rembrandt,
his paintings have drawn me
by their use of light and shadow:
Aristotle, Christ, Jacob Blessing
the Sons of Joseph—always
the light coming from the right,
“… man’s more sacred side.”
“Man’s more sacred side.”
Is that what we fail as we hurl ourselves
through life? In the portraits
of Rembrandt, the light honors
what is human and what is God-like,
accepting a place where they meet,
his later biblical paintings
all completed, uncommissioned,
out of his own need.
Out of our own need,
in this Sabbath between the closing leaves
of prayer plants and the pale
blossoming of sleep, we read,
my daughter and I,
finding again the Word …
Light.

Homecoming

Third Place
Perhaps he then returned
At thirty-one or -two,
His tall frame stopping sunlight at the door,
Familiar shadow on familiar wall.
But she’d have sensed him there
Before she saw
And, thanking God,
Abandoned wheel or loom or bowl
To fling herself into his arms,
Then hold him back,
At arms’ length,
To satisfy her soul.
And she’d have seen
The whole, and more:
Sandals layered thick
With dust of untold steps,
Unknown towns;
Shoulders stooped a bit,
Burden-bound;
Hands—quickly—hands
with short-cropped nails
And craftsman’s square utility,
Unmarked (what had the dream been, then?)
Except for memory
Of plane and saw
Or childhood scrape;
And eyes of weary wisdom,
Warm compassion,
Past and future pain,
Of present love.
I think she could not look for long.
Then she’d have offered food
and calm concern,
And gently probed the aching months apart,
His health, his heart—
Savoring, hoarding every brief response
Against the future drought
Her love was powerless to stay.
And he’d have left with lighter step
And backward smile,
As she stood
In that empty place,
Her last gift given,
Her shoulders
Stooped a bit,
Burden-bound.

Man of Oslo

Honorable Mention
Christian—Grandfather—
son of Opland’s
hills,
outcast
for your faith’s choice—
I can only guess
at your heart’s aching
as you stood there,
hat in hand,
as child
after child
left your side,
leaving fjell and fjord
and midnight sun,
sailing out to
new beginnings,
taking on the name
of immigrant
in strange and arid
mountain-lands.
Leaving—
and you remain.
Christian—Grandfather—
Father of my Father’s
Mother—
because of you
I live in this far
place of peace,
Amerika—
and you sleep
still
in Christiania.

[illustration] Background derived from “The Israel I Love,” by Noel Calef. Used by permission.