1990 Eliza R. Snow Poetry Contest Winners

By Dawn Baker Brimley

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    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
    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