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