Continuing in this series, here are the adult winners of the 2021 Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest hosted by Greenfield Public Library. The competition, which attracted 275 entries, was open to all residents, as well as students from Franklin County schools.
The adult winners are: first place, After All by Lynne Pledger; second place, North Hadley, by Sharon Dunn; and third place, Day 348 by Gary Greene. Their poems appear below.
The co-winners for the group of young people aged 12 to 14: Maggie Provencal and Lillianna Inman. Co-winners for the 15-18 youth group: Malia Hanes and Ehtan Chase. Their poems appeared in earlier publication.
His ashes came via UPS. The little bag
was a remnant of my mother’s life
that I could hold in my hands.
The bag was warm, after sitting down
all morning on the porch in the sun.
I held it to my chest and wandered off
in the field towards the long rows
strawberries. They gave so much
berries that we had had more to sell.
Mom had left no request regarding
his remains, but would surely like
the idea of enriching a cash crop.
I imagined his smile.
Once I saw a picture of a woman
in France, supposedly 120,
her deeply wrinkled tan skin.
She looked free – but strong,
like an old tree that was far away
beyond fecundity, ramification
toward the sky.
I was told that mom’s ashes could
be coarse, like gravel, and I reinforced
myself for pieces of bone. Perhaps
a tooth. But when I arrived
strawberry and open
the bag was just ashes after all.
Folding, I poured them along
the row, moving quickly then,
shaken by their whiteness
against the earth.
I pass by North Hadley
God still speaks says the red banner
on the steeple church with peeling paint.
So I listen. He drilled a hole
in the cloudy ceiling, and the shine sings
on a distant hill. His conversation
features rusty tractors, crumbled roof sheds
and bony cattle munching in a side yard.
He’s silent on the hip of the village cop
idling in his car for a speeder. He speaks
the tones of frost on the fields, of tree branches
cracked in october storm, water
whispering from the pond to its lower reaches.
The road curves its wide S, then
Speed limit: 30
Your speed: 28
II tobacco barn at the beginning of winter
On either side of the empty barn
high slats leaning towards the air.
I see across the fields beyond
always without snow, resembling columns of gold.
The barn breathes, I breathe.
No more long hanging tobacco leaves
and dried up, and the vacant barn
sings when the wind blows.
III Mid-December, Champs
Prisoners in fluorescent orange vests
drag snow fences through stubble fields
not far from their white bus
written in front: TRIAL COURT.
Released in the crisp air, they raise
a line of wooden staves to protect
the snowdrift country road
so that we can make our way without a hitch.
On the other side of the road, hundreds of Canada geese
to forage a vast field. All winter they fly
upon us in their ragged Vs, north, south,
east, west, honking, compass askew.
We are all lost. We make our way
through galleries, along country roads,
through dilemmas, passion,
sin or in unknown cities.
I’m the happy prisoner of the sun on my face,
wait for another chance. A long-necked bird
eyeing the kernels of corn. A woman driving,
who needs a new path from here to there.
IV At the end of winter
The men park their truck
further up West Street.
Hundreds of tin buckets
rest in each other
on the truck bed. You can see
where men have already been,
buckets tied to all the maples
behind them. They tap on a faucet
in each trunk and hang a bucket
to catch the clear sap
just starting to sink.
Oh, draw in me, leave my sap
clear, watery drop in the bucket
spring, ready for fire
from the sugar shack,
steam escaping from the chimney
in ten-foot plumes,
in thick amber syrup,
December 14 will always be the day
Roald Amundsen defeated Robert F. Scott
by first reaching the South Pole
and the date on which Eugene Cernan became
the last pedestrian on the moon (so far.)
On day 348 of 1650
housekeeper Anne Greene,
unjustly presumed guilty of infanticide,
was hanged in Oxford Castle, England,
before being resurrected
to his dissection the next day,
live another nine years.
The Hot Air Balloon — remarkably! —
tested the first unmanned balloon in 1782,
while barely 158 years later,
plutonium has been isolated.
Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe,
who would lose a large part of his nose
at twenty in a drunken duel over mathematics,
was born on December 14, 1546,
and only 472 years later,
day by day,
you are dead.
I can just imagine you
first to arrive at your funeral,
radioactive with excitement,
embark on his own adventure,
float in front of the moon
with your new friend Anne
to join Tycho among the stars
and snoop around the universe.