2019 Laureates’ Choice - Group Two

Amending the Second Amendment

Amendment #2: The right to bear
occasional affliction, to assume
a weapon like an M16 should care
how it gets treated, how we can doom
our residents to ceaseless violent acts.
The schools shut down. The movie theaters close.
We hire armed guards to cover up the fact
we can’t be safe. Our laws don’t work. Our clothes
are splattered with the blood of innocents.
We strike. We march. We curse the NRA
for placing humans second: Makes no sense
to plead the rights of guns as people pray
to simply live. To just survive. To seek
amendments aimed at sheltering the meek.

Jonathan Greenhause
Jersey City, NJ

Gray Out

You have them and you’re not sure what to do—
these moments where you suddenly gray out.
You start to read an email. Halfway through,
you’ve lost the thread of what the thing’s about.

You wonder if you’ve almost nodded off
or if some other forces are at play.
Your reverie is broken by a cough.
Your wife comes in, says supper’s on its way.

What did you do all day? Well, you’re not sure.
You didn’t read. You didn’t write—just thought.
Or was it thought? Is this your sinecure?—
inhabiting the nothingness of naught?

You only know you’ve been there once you’re back;
hence, you won’t sense your final fade to black.

Herb Guggenheim
Rockville, MD

Pusillanimous Poem

‘Other people’s ideas of us are dependent largely on what they’ve hoped for.’ —F. Scott Fitzgerald
‘I don’t want to live – I want to love first and live incidentally.’—Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda and Scott, that self-destructive pair
We still concede the sheen of glamor to
Because of one great novel and the care
Of critics and biographers, went through
Their reckless years with little time to spare
For anyone beyond themselves.  It’s true
They suffered in the unrelenting glare
Of blazing notoriety, but who
Can say they didn’t choose their cross to bear?
If talent and sheer craziness could do
The same for us, whom do you know who’d dare
To join that drug-and-drink-besotted queue
Lined up to take their chance to play the game
Of trading life and self and soul for fame?

Arnold Johnston
Kalamazoo, MI

Hansel and Gretel

The painting shows them walking hand in hand
Along a brightened forest path. The sun
Throws shadows toward the house that they’ve abandoned
And warms their worried faces. Now, as one,
They measure out their freedom, and the brother
Gives his little sister’s hand a squeeze to tell
Her it will be OK. The proxy mother
Thinks they’re gone. The witch is dead. They’ll sell
The forks and knives they’ve stolen. This is how
We’d like to see them. Happy. Standing. Young.
Not tempted by the wicked trap they’ve found,
The sugar shingles melting on the tongue,
Or locked in cages, crying our their names
To one another, staring at the flames.

Benjamin Lally
Framingham, MA

In Praise of Trees

Let us praise whatever grows on trees,
those photosynthesizing carbonovores:
their blossoms, tree rings, twigs, pinecones, and leaves;
their clustered needles, bark, new nubs, and spores;
those floating, twirling seedfins in the fall
that stick and sometimes grow up in the grass;
their sucker shoots that add no charm at all;
their forests, copses, mushrooms, greying moss,
nuts for squirrels, berries for the birds,
all the parts that now can cure disease;
the million ways they’ve given birth to words
for stories, poems, myths and histories;
the root that can extend and lift a bit
the heavy concrete slab that rests on it.

Richard Lewis
Portland, OR