2018 Laureates’ Choice - Group One

At the Santa Barbarians Gate

Sea salt, fire poppy, rock rose, prickly pear,
yard trees exuberant with orange and lime,
Edgewater swings down to Mesa Lane stairs,
golden beach front cliffs framed by blaze blue sky.
Walk waterline where Chumash set nets for
black abalone and littleneck clam,
light combers break on a pacific shore,
dark footprints fill quickly with beach tar sand.
Nuthatch, morning dove, red hawk, curlew, crow,
soft sun shoos off channel isles’ idling fog,
Santa Ynez stand stark and strong in glow,
an old boy casts ball to young aussie dog.
Street awash in gold, green, and copper hues,
Good morning, El Camino de la Luz.

Mike Costello
Winona, MN

Paradise Leased

The newborn smiles, sleeping in your arms,
while purple lilacs scent the breeze of May.
But fits of colic dim the infant’s charms;
the cold will shrivel every fragrant flower;
pristine snowbanks darken into ember.
Still, there comes a day or just an hour,
whether it’s in June or dark December,
when it’s no matter “Nothing gold can stay.”
Your senses quiver, as if a gust of grace
has swept you to a state of bliss. It
is called Elusive as a dwelling place.
Forget a deed of ownership; just visit
(think: a short-term lease), and be content.
Paradise is only yours to rent.

Barbara Lydecker Crane
Somerville, MA


How gluttony inflates your cheeks, and pride
replaces reasoned law with unjust one;
how lusts are foaming at your mouth to ride
the golf cart that your lies cannot outrun;
how greed controls your every thought, and sloth
flies Air Force One to beach-side residence
where envy hatches anger, adding up
to you the lord of seven deadly sins.
I wonder why the pious give you praise
enraptured with your self-important crust.
Quick sponges, they blot out your wicked ways
and squeeze your malice on the rest of us.
An umbrage worms its way through all this mess
and on its back clings wrath, my sudden guest.

Sandra Graff
Wallkill, NY

Family Systems (IV)

We wake. I ask my son to phone his father’s mourners.
The news is not unexpected: my husband—
maligned in frenzy—at last consumed.
Seated at his father’s desk, my son fingers
the rolodex, his twin and his sister
with me in the kitchen. We three sit cross-legged;
I thumb a cookbook and mark frittatas, cakes, and breads.
My son, in the study, speaks fact to plastic receiver:
Funeral on Friday.          Repast to follow.
He flicks the rolodex in regular interval.
While his twin rises to choose a cast iron,
we three hear again  again  from room adjacent:
—on Friday. Repast to follow. He speaks inevitable
following flick on flick.  Funeral  Funeral.

Clare Harmon
New Richmond, WI

Misshapen Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms

So much of what becomes, in time, real love
Is filed in vast archives of accident,
Surprise from clumsy chance, the glove
One forgets on a subway, the moment
Another elects to seize it and shout “oh, miss,”
Or “sir,” and to spring after, waving it,
Onto the platform, “did you forget this?”
Such acts are rare. When they come, they cast light
Across the disarrays that dim our days.
We seem to come to love by mistake, but
It is a spark that starts a fuse upon its way:
And not a merest moment’s chance, or what
We choose to give, or what we lose or leave,
But what, with luck, at last, we will receive.

Ernest Hilbert
Philadelphia, PA