1990 Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest Winners

By Dawn Baker Brimley


St. Matthew on a Midsummer Night

First Place
A shadow that comes, whenever,
spreads more than shade
on any town, if the town disappears,
or seems to, in a roll
of earth between sun and moon,
when light is lost, slice by slice.
In such darkness I felt like fleeing
into mountains or other holy places,
but my cat, a good judge of calamity,
looked down, sensing no great change,
seeing no lightning. But suppose
two women are working in a field.
Suppose they are friends, gathering
grain by the glow of a lamp
when the skies darken and flame.
Suppose in some state of truth
elusive and clear as eclipse
they hear the crash of stars.
Suppose what eternity promised has come,
and yet both women are lifted up,
can lead one another on,
carrying their baskets of grain,
the good flavor of their earth,
past other fields waving and growing,
past trees grasping rain,
past mountains holding sound,
past spills of sun and shade
from a moon both new and full.

When the Elect, Not Hearing

Second Place
What of those who come
And leave
Unhealed—
Who linger on the hillsides,
Hungering for a time,
Until the bread runs out;
Who turn from clay and spittle
And the Light;
Who, hurrying through dusty streets,
Brush against His robe
And never know?
When the elect, not hearing,
Stand beyond the gates,
There is a grief that rends the heavens;
For they, in Idumea’s shrouds,
Heed not the cries
Of Him who calls to friends,
“Come forth!”

First Frost

Third Place
The nip
That crimps the vine
And curls the leaves of quaking aspen
Taints the shimmering
Emerald fields.
Gone are languid days
Of sun-sponged idleness
And water frivolity.
Yet now
The nip of first frost
Tweaks the cheeks of apples
And opens pinion cones
To sprinkle pine nuts
On the ground.
The honk
Of geese on marshy ponds,
The acrid smell of wood smoke
Seals summer in time.
And beckons
A new season.

[illustration] View of the Tiber Near Peruga, by George Inness; courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington: Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund