2020 Poetry Festival Events
April’s Poetry Events–Postponed
Unfortunately, due to requests for social distancing, we have to postpone all of the planned poetry events. We hope to reschedule some of them in the future.
Please see the winning poems below. We are grateful to our screening judges for choosing the finalists and especially to North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green for selecting the winning poems. Congratulations to the winners!
First place: Max Heinegg, “Cassiopeia”
Second place: Greg Rappleye, “Helldivers”
Third place: Kathryn Jordan, “Time’s Calculus
Honorable Mention: Greg Rappleye, “Turnips”
Honorable Mention: Greg Rappleye, “Burning Out the Redwings”
First place: Neil Rostick, “Past the Concrete Wall
Second place: Cash McFarlane, “Nature’s Song
Third place: Katrina Shauf, “Stars”
“Cassiopeia” by Max Heinnegg “Helldivers” by Greg Rappleye
Over a dock in Islamorada, winter shows up -Curtiss SB2C Helldivers;the Hunter’s badge of stars. downriver Detroit, July 1943his shield & cudgel raised, but not neededagainst the mortal Scorpius, whose tail The girl who’ll be my Mam is all alone,sleeps in summer skies. Tonight, out of the asylum on a weekend pass,sitting on the steps of Maggie’s faded two-story,I remember Orion’s other death, listening as the Helldivers from Grosse Ilethe target when Apollo taunted strafe Plum Island, sortie after sortie,a smitten sister, Bet you can’t each scored by an ensign aboard a grey tugpierce that dot in the distance which anchored at mid-channel, because “Practice makes perfect,”was her lover’s head above water, and our best will be needed at Truk and Iwo Jima.as he swam in peace, miles away. Not supposed to drink (amobarbitol, too young),Her immortal grief couldn’t sway Zeus she’s on her fourth beer from Waddy’s extrato bring him back, but in honor, icebox, and is eating blind robins on dark rye–her father strung the stars. over-salted herring fillets; stinky, the worst snack ever.She knows that Paul Witkowski, who’s slumpedOn the steps back, we pause to catch in a wheelchair on the porch of a bungalowthe circumpolar queen mother, kitty-corner across St. John Street, who lost both legswho only boasted once that her girl and much of his face to flaming bunker fueloutclassed the holy spirits of the sea, aboard the Oklahoma, will persuade himselfrousing their father to revenge. the Helldivers are Japanese ZerosYoung, I thought that myth only and begin to scream, sure that he’s backhow wealth makes one feel untouchable. at Pearl; four hours a day, seven days every weekhe wails, unless the Helldivers-thumping live ammoThe night sky should be the end of hubris to the Plum Island mud before pulling up& the jealous possession that rules us, and circling back, their 1700-horse Cyclone enginesbut this is one of the last times roaring all the way down Eureka Road–their inseparable youth & beauty are ours entirely, don’t score well enough and need more practice,before they quit their rooms & cleave to others. sometimes flying deep into the buzzy, mosquitoed dusk,Now I know silence is a safer vanity, & why Paul Witkowski and Mam echoing those perfectshe had forgotten what the world is machines wail for wail, scream for scream.ready to take away. Yet,a ruinous secret, I too lovemy daughters more than I fear the gods.
“Time’s Calculus” by Kathryn Jordan “Turnips” by Greg Rappleye
In the post-acute care room, rumpled This root, when boiled, has ever been considered as safe a vegetable forsheets no Sunday morning romp, the invalid as any in the vocabulary of esculents; and even the feveredbut hillocks of phone, hearing aid, invalid, when prohibited all other vegetables, has been allowed toO2 tube socks. I want to sit again partake of this, not because of its nutrition, but because of the absencein your kitchen, stained glass sparrows of it, not having sufficient to injure the weakest body.singing sun through the window, you –Asenath Nicholson, Annals of the Famine in Ireland (1851),stirring up scrapple in a skillet, gold Chapter VI (2)bangles jingling, sizzling breakfast.So in her traveller days, when Mam did what the doctorThose afternoons spent smacking told her not to, and drank whiskey over her blood pillsfragrant tennis balls, white skirt, and her flesh went hawberry red, and purple veins bulgedlegs game-strong— now you grip along her face and shoulders and arms, and the capillariesthe orange ball, lift it up and down, burst in her eyes, turning her the image of the legendaryas Eric, the OT guy, sculpted beard, Red Hulk of Marvel’s Fate of the Hulks, a creatureupbeat voice, says, “You got this.” whose tricks were howling with rage and an urge to catch fire,The red light glows an aura around she boiled turnips in brine, until the snailback was redolentyour finger, measuring oxygen, of them and shawling her head, she inhaled turnip-steamblood numbers rising and falling, and drank turnip broth, then slowly worked the softened rootstime’s special internal calculus. and butter pats to a lukewarm paste, and ate what she couldkeep down with a tea-and-honey chaser, until the medicineNurses come and go as you eat was gone from her and the whiskey gone too, and her bodyfrom the tray, honey hair brushed shriveled to a kind of human form, and for a time she was smallsmooth, nails done coral, soft plush and pink and no longer screaming, and could no longer burstblue bed jacket nearly touching from nothingness into flames.canned turkey gravy on the plate.It’s all I can do not to reach over,as if you were my child, andredirect your arm gently, ever so.
“Burning Out the Redwings” by Greg Rappleye “Past the Concrete Wall” by Neil Rostick
-Agelrius phoeniceousFurther and further I goThe blueberries are a-flesh, Past the limbs of trees strewn with ivyfat with juice, wanting only quick fingers, Like a snake wrapping around its innocent preybut now the redwings wheel and strafe But still I walk on, past the concrete wallwherever the migrants pick—drawing blood, driving children out of the field. Descending further into silence, past the pile of small branchesSo the men block the service road; I bend down and see a speck of green glinting in the sunspray petrol along the ditch The morning dew crystals shimmering against the grayand (here is the dangerous part) blow-torch But still I walk on, past the concrete wallthe cattails, until at flash-point–as a great whoosh of oxygen A creek runs through the shadowsclaps in from the high-bush As it carves a way for itself through the soft Earththe already risen birds, panicked As it has always done-and will always dofall for an old trick Even as I walk on, past the concrete walland dive to the cacophonous fire.Blown aflame, the redwings The littlest brown spider crawls on mecorkscrew across the blown sky, Its delicate paper thin legs clingarcing like penny rockets, like hissy little meteorites, Until it falls down into the mud at my feetscattered as far as the windbreak. And like a spring it bounces upright and crawls awayAnd at dawn, when the migrants come back Its destination will always be a mysteryto pick their way to the ashy ditch, For only mother nature can knowthose who dreamed the scree of flaming birds As I walk on, past the concrete wallwill fill their buckets with berriesagain and again. But having lost a sweet taste; I step once more on the worn traila simple necessary sweetness, Through the emerald green blades of the onion grasswill no longer eat of the ripened fruit But I stop and look at such a thing that many passas they work across the field. The pine needle fansAn ombre of deep green and sunlit brownBut this was not made by Vincent Van GoghThe delicate brush strokes made by time and patienceTheir work is never done, so they continue onAs I walk, past the concrete wallAnd even as I am away from the brick and mortarI still hear and see human nature, what we have doneYou say this land is yours, that it’s private propertyBut nature belongs to allWe use these woods as a landfill for our own needsBut what about the crystal clear stream, the onion grass, the spongy mossAnd even the brown spiderYes, the little brown spider that bounced like a springBut maybe they’re right-All of themWho cares about the little spider or the delicate leaves of autumnThe chill of a winter breezeStep by step I walk away, past the concrete wall
“Nature’s Song” by Cash McFarlane “Stars” by Katrina Shauf
I hum as the sun warms my face with its golden rays What is a star? I’ve never seenAnything so brilliant,And a rustle comes from the breeze playing with the leaves Amid a heavenly gleamAs the legends told of inky black nightsThe birds sing their separate songs, each filled with praise Enchanted prayers engulfed in bright fiery lights.As the trees creak with every push of the wind Is that a star? What you holdWhen your spirit is resolvedAnd the dry grass crunches with every step of my feet. And your soul glimmers of gold?When you wish upon it, does the wish come true?Croaking loudly in unison, the toads make themselves known Does it grant you your dreams of a life all anew?They startle all with a plop when into the water they drop. Is that a star? On the ground,The yellow flowers’ petalsI hear small footsteps of squirrels running through the fallen leaves That sleep, beautiful and sound?Are they laced with toxin like burning flames?As acorns thud the ground and bounce around Do they kill you quickly, leaving just remains?The brook babbling as it finds its way down the mountain Are they a star? Lying downEternally slumberingAnd water droplets trickling as they seep though the rocks. In their coffins underground?Do they still glow now, with their lights burnt out?In the distance, there’s a faint screech from a lone hawk Are they up in the sky, or still underground?From the high branches the squirrel’s cackle Are you a star? Do you shine?Do you watch over monsters,And from the sky, the crow’s caw Above the fabric of time?Are you infused with determination?As if they laugh and are saying “haha” Will you, one day, bring us our salvation?Come play along Did you come from above to save us all?Did you shoot like a star when you took your fall?This is nature’s song