Selected Poetry and Photography Winners

by Kevin Merrell

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    The 1976 New Era contest is over. Here, in the August issue, are selected winners in art, poetry, fiction, and photography. These are not all of the winners, but they do represent the fine quality of work submitted for each category. Throughout the coming year you will be seeing other contest winners as they are used to complement articles and stories in the New Era magazine. All contest participants deserve commendation for their craftsmanship and artistry—it was a difficult choice.

    To Learn the Basics of Fish Movement

    Tarzan would’ve helped me—climb
    one of those big sycamores on
    Roosevelt Street, and stayed there
    with me, watching for lions and stray dogs
    while an hour (the lessons
    were an hour) flowed by—
    but Tarzan never made it
    out of my imagination,
    and I kept walking
    the mile and a half
    three times a week
    to learn the basics of fish movement
    and porpoise craft—
    to a gray monolith of a
    MUNICIPAL POOL over the door
    in concrete capital letters,
    full of snow-melt for water
    with instructors
    eel-agile, bronzed,
    urging me to coordinate my skinny, shaking
    body into kicking and paddling
    in rhythm.
    And oh the thermic sympathy
    of sun-soaked cement
    when I’d lay on the deck after efforts
    were over—
    then home again,
    a mile and a half of relief,
    past the rose-gardened, ivy-cloaked
    mansions on Roosevelt Street
    —the longing
    to climb a sycamore for an hour
    slowly evaporating like water
    from a little boy’s
    red towel


    Along with a bundle of letters
    addressed in faded fountain pen to
    a Miss June Tanner
    and stamped with purple Benjamin Franklins,
    A tarnished brooch, bird-shaped,
    missing the eye stone,
    And a leatherbound diary,
    including news clippings, pressed flowers—
    I found a photograph
    of a little boy, freckled and
    missing a front tooth from his smile,
    My name and the date
    penned on the back.
    Like seeing an old schoolmate
    for the first time in years,
    it was a little awkward—
    He, in Mom’s keepsake box,
    wearing a sheepish first-grade grin;
    I, fascinated by his familiar
    red shirt and black-rimmed glasses
    (held together on one side by wire and Magic Mending Tape)—
    But I found myself
    liking his daguerreotype quietness,
    at ease in his stillness
    and the way he was content to just grin,
    So I didn’t press for details
    but wiped off his dust veneer
    and retucked him away,
    feeling very old
    for being
    thirteen …

    [photo] Photo by Frank Matheson


    like grains of sand
    in an oyster
    can be turned into pearls of hope
    in our lives

    [photo] Photo by Kris Rasmussen

    [photo] Photo by LeRoy Chambers

    [photo] Photo by Russell Durtschi

    Frog Catching 1966–1976

    I loved to catch frogs.
    As a little girl
    I would watch them squirm
    and tickle their green shiny bodies.
    I wanted to keep them forever,
    but I always let them go.
    The other day
    I tried to catch a frog
    (for my little sister).
    But it squirmed,
    and I got scared
    and let the slimy thing go.

    [photo] Photo by Marion Metcalf

    [photo] Photo by J. E. Sumsion

    (Genesis 21:14)

    Hush, Ishmael,
    The dawn is green today
    And the day will be white
    Without shadow.
    No one awake
    But us, in the cool dawn of a prayer,
    Three goodbyes
    On the bare curve of hills.
    Water slaps in its bottle in footstep rhythm
    Of three
    Then two
    A dog wakes the flocks
    Far away.

    [photo] Photo by Kris Rasmussen

    [photo] Photo by Scott Beck

    [photo] Photo by Brent Robison

    [photo] Photo by Kenneth A. Croft

    [photo] Photo by Keith K. Aldous


    The frosted
    iron railing
    as the rising sun
    lifted its white veil,
    exposing the rusted bar.


    I write not
    from the poet within,
    but the one that occasionally
    passes through.

    [photo] Photo by John Eyer

    [photo] Photo by Kenneth Croft

    [photo] Photo by Kris Rasmussen


    Like the crush
    of first-minute
    on leaving
    dark fruit-cellar,
    there is
    a certain
    catching of the breath
    in my soul
    when the Spirit
    thunders softly,
    “He lives” …

    Train of Thought

    Quietly I boarded your train of thought
    and took a window seat,
    pleased to be alone in the car.
    We pulled away slowly
    but gradually gathered smooth speed
    and were soon clipping delightfully along
    between green walls of countryside.
    Occasionally, though, we slowed,
    then stopped to let others board.
    Fullness spread through the car,
    infecting every seat.
    My legs were cramped;
    my back began to ache.
    When the train stopped again
    to let still others board,
    I slipped off to stretch—
    to get some fresh air—
    and to wait for another,
    less-crowded train.

    talking small

    talk small to me when we meet.
    ask me only those things that
    hundreds before you have asked.
    I’ll give you my practiced answers,
    and we’ll be small friends.

    For Jayne

    Happiness came to me
    Like the warm glow of lamplight.
    It rested in my heart
    And spread itself till everything I touched
    Answered back in joy.

    [photo] Photo by John Eyer