2016 Laureates’ Choice - Group One

The morning greeting

How delicate the web between the trees—
It was but all that tied each one to each,
And even though atop by limbs and leaves
Would touch, was said the wind compelled this reach.

And too, the sounds that moved from tree to tree,
Perhaps just lonely song the songbirds lent,
To seem as if the trees somehow believed
In something more than what the songbird meant.

Were I to tell of more than what was there:
The morning greeting and her brief reply,
Or lean to see the silver in the air,
Betrayed by love’s dark need to verify,

Like one who goes between the trees, might tear,
The delicates that also linger there.

James Brooks
Signal Mountain, TN

Written in the Chicago Institute of Arts

In Italy I saw him, arms outstretched.
Poseidon! posed in stone and armed with spear.
I swore I saw you reproduced, a sketch,
The body strong - the attitude and beard.
In life, it seemed the ocean was your base.
Below the tides in subtle strategy
You weathered storms above from a safe place
And sent sub rosa waves to change the sea.
But now you’ve gone to stay beneath those crests!
I search for you through soundless fathoms deep.
Sometimes, at rest, I think I hear your voice. 
I walk the beach despairing in your sleep.
Like Dido and Aeneas, we’re apart,
And I – too modern for the pyre – lose heart.

Jane Callahan
Rochester, MN

Good, Gentle Blur

The pane through which I’ve always viewed my world
has been obscured, no longer shining, bright
and clear. A smear-stained barricade unfurled,
when fall arrived, to cloud and blur my sight.
Has acid etched the glass for all of time?
Perhaps a fog, too chill to burn away,
has muffled and reduced to pantomime
my life, transforming blacks and whites to gray.
What if the cause is mine, if breath, pent in
too long, expelled at last in steaming sighs
has veiled my view? Then, wipe it clean, begin
anew! But, as time’s passed serenely by,
thanks has replaced unease. Good, gentle blur:
your source aside, you render me secure.

Lee Pelham Cotton
Locust Hill, VA


Her doctor calls and he concisely tells
the test results. Yes, she says, though hope
plummets down a deep and stony well.
As if she teeters there, she needs a rope
to save herself. She’s frantic for a trip-
Key West? Nepal? Northern lights in Nome,
exotic Polynesian ports by ship?
Her glance flits around her tidy home
and little garden terrace. What is known
is here, away from that abyss, and travel
would mean the nested status quo has flown.
Routine, tight-meshed, might not let life unravel.
She'll weave a net to hide the stony hole
and live with her illusion of control.

Barbara Lydecker Crane
Somerville, MA

My Love's a Mixture So Sublime

Thy skin, not scaly like the lizard's coat,
is hot and smooth as is the salamander's.
Thy lips, unlike the python's, stretched till slack,
are smooth as velvet fur worn by the stoat.
Thy hair, not sticky with a cobweb's dander,
stands up in ranks as on a hedgehog's back.
Thy hands are not the claws of harpy fetid:
they are the palps of octopus, alas! unbedded.
Oh, love, from every creature what is best
thou art participant: If ugly swine
hath drooling chin, thou art her silken lips.
If serpent spitteth spiteful venom, thou rest
in coils musical and hissest so fine
that angels list and plaud thy airs divine.

Lawrence DiCostanzo
Albany, CA