Winning Poetry Entries
1st Place – Hearts Waiting in the Snow by Thornton Blease
Waiting in the snow
Sequel, I have this feeling that you
are watching me, waiting for me to come
through the snow that settles so softly like falling stars.
Waiting, for me to pass by the flat metal cutout horse
marking your grave. The metal catches the twinkling
colored lights and creates a rainbow extending behind the pine trees,
and through the canal. You wait for me every day. And watch
with your Chestnut eyes, eyes that felt prickly on my skin not so long ago.
Eyes that made me shiver, eyes that melted my heart.
You wait in all kinds of weather but snow, soft, silky flakes
you love the best. Flakes easy to canter through with your friends. You wait
with your boarded-up eyes and twitching ears, alert at attention, predictable,
swinging like signs in the wind. You wait with your mane flowing, crusted with snow.
And smile as I walk Markus past you. Markus, both kind and confusingly naughty. I know
you sent him to me. You knew he needed special kindness. Understanding. You knew
that his behavior could land him in a bad place. But not with me.
As the snow falls faster, it creates a festive snow-globe world along the canal.
Snow falling through a hint of colored lights that bounce off a
three feet tall, silver-colored cutout of a horse, enough light to create the Rainbow Bridge.
You stand solidly watching, your snow-covered mane flowing. You wait, with your back to the pine trees.
You wait for me to pause with Markus, to bow my head in respect. To shed a tear.
Just one. Markus, with his thick bay brown fur
pauses. He lowers his head
donned in your red Santa hat
to thank you for sharing
your hat. And me.
1st Runner Up – Caregiver’s Christmas by Phyllis Brace
Requested entry to not be posted.
2nd Runner Up – Ode to Colors of the Holidays by Su Gerheim
Ode to Colors of the Holidays
Holiday foods that swim in our heads,
the tang of cranberries, spicey red wines,
savory hams, or briskets and breads,
sauces and gravies pluck salivary mines.
Tertiary crisps of slaws and tossed salad,
of hot yams, green beans and smooth mashed potatoes.
Don’t forget the olives, or nuts to squeeze in.
Then pies that sing on the tongue in ballads
from pumpkin to sweet apple keying glandular pianos.
All special flavors defined by the season.
Moving through this castle of Holiday bliss
Brings to the touch garlands, gifts, and guests
with bear-hug greetings and a cheeky kiss,
surrounded by tactile, comely textured nests.
A home warm with candles and tangy hot cider,
smooth package wrappings and lace tablecloths.
Reunions of distant families re-kindling their ties
and fullness of moments that swell our hearts wider.
Teardrops, though happy, roll down in swaths
when feelings intensify among holiday highs.
Celebration aromas meander through the rooms,
pine boughs, to cinnamon sticks, to fresh linen beds.
The outdoors is indoors with deep woodsy blooms.
Aspens and hickories, in thin, whispering threads
of incense and food trails mingling together.
Chamomile to green tea to peppermint candy
olfactory scents internalize into keepsakes
of winter cold snow, or sandy beach heather,
of eggnog beverages, or softly warmed brandy.
Swirly blended inhales become nasal snowflakes.
And holiday sounds echo from within.
Their tones translate to a million intense shades
with high staccatos twinkling blue ice and tinsel
and low tones evoking deep reds in subtle grades.
The season resounds with bells, birds, and bangles
and for most, with five senses, that will be no surprise.
But for me, I’ll only, four senses, need
to treasure the moments in all their ambient angles.
For I don’t have sight, but the colors I visualize
Bring me holidays vibrant in a rainbow stampede.
Winning Prose Entries
1st Place – A Glimpse of Christmas Joy by Elizabeth Vollstadt
A Glimpse of Christmas Joy
Christina had the dream again. It was Christmas Eve, two years ago today. The tree glowed with lights, a fire crackled in the fireplace, and the two loves of her life—her husband Dan and daughter Grace—laughed as they tied a Christmas bow. She smiled as joy filled her being. Then thunder clapped and the lights went out. A few seconds later, they came back on, but the light was dim. No tree, no fire, no loved ones.
She woke with tears on her cheeks. If only she had said, “no” when Dan and Grace decided to go out to get hot chocolate for Christmas morning. If only she had bought some earlier. But “if only” meant nothing. For they had gone. And the police came back. A drunk driver had run a stop sign. They died instantly—and so did she.
Tomorrow no gifts would be under a tree. No joy would touch her heart. Tonight she’d take a sleeping pill and hope to sleep tomorrow away.
But today she had to get up. The county’s Child Protection Department, where she worked, would be open. Abuse doesn’t stop for Christmas. The day passed as usual. Two sisters were placed in a group home after being found in a cold empty house. A too-thin toddler found a better home with his aunt. A smiling couple picked up their adopted baby girl.
Christina was ready to leave when Jessica, a case worker and friend, came in with a little girl about four or five. Almond-shaped brown eyes peered at Christina from a face the color of café au lait. Snowflakes melted on her curly hair. In one hand she held a teddy bear with a Santa hat. Her other hand clutched Jess’s arm.
“I need your help,” Jess said. “This is Eva Lin. She needs someplace to stay.”
Christina frowned. “No family?”
Jess smiled at Eva as she gently pried the little girl’s hand from her arm. She pointed to a play area. “Why don’t you go over there while Mrs. Donnelly and I talk.”
She turned back to Christina. “Eva’s mother died six months ago. This morning, her father placed her on her grandparents’ porch. When they answered the bell, he said, ‘Here’s your granddaughter. She’s all yours.’ Then he left.”
“So why isn’t she there?”
“They don’t want her. They’re wealthy Chinese and won’t accept a bi-racial child. Eva’s not pure Asian.”
“But she’s their granddaughter!”
Jess shrugged. “That’s for another day. Right now, I can’t find a foster home. It’s Christmas Eve. I’d take her, but Mike and I and the girls are flying to Disney World tonight. You’re licensed. You could take her.”
“I can’t. It’s too much to ask.”
Jess touched Christina’s arm. “Maybe it’s time to try.”
“How dare you tell me what it’s time for! You with your perfect family.” Christina’s raised voice caused Eva to look up from the book she was paging through.
Jess smiled at her, then whispered to Christina. “Please. I can’t abandon her. Caroline will look for a family after Christmas.”
Christina sighed. Jess had been a constant support for her. “Okay, I’ll take her till then.”
Jess hugged Christina. “Thank you! I owe you one.”
Christina forced a smile. “No, I’m paying you back. Give me her stuff—I assume that packed pillow case is her suitcase—and you get going.”
Before she left, Jess hugged Eva. “Have a Merry Christmas with Mrs. Donnelly. I’ll see you when I got back.”
Then it was just Christina and Eva. “Let’s go,” Christina said. She picked up Eva’s pillow case and headed to the door. Eva followed silently.
As she drove, Christina tried not to resent the little girl strapped in the back. Why was she alive and not her Grace? Once home, she switched on the hall light as Eva peered into the living room. “Where’s the Christmas tree? Can we turn on the lights? Mommy always put the lights on.”
“I don’t have a tree,” Christina snapped. “Follow me and we’ll get you settled.”
Not looking at Eva, she went into the den and opened the futon. Eva continued down the hall. Christina heard her open a door. She whirled around. No, Eva could not go there.
She found her standing in Grace’s room, stroking the pink flowered quilt. “Can I sleep here?” Eva asked, her facing lighting up.
“No!” Christina tried not to yell, but the words came out harshly. “This is NOT for you! You are not to come in here again.”
Eva backed out of the room. “I . . . I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I didn’t mean to be bad. Please don’t hit me!” Sobbing she crouched into tight ball on the hallway floor.
“Hit you?” Christina raised her voice. “I’m not going to hit you. How could you think that?”
Eva cried harder. When Christina approached her, she scooted away.
Oh my god, what kind of monster am I, frightening a scared, abandoned child?
Someone had hit Eva. Maybe her father. What if she and Dan had been killed? What if Grace were alone, frightened? Maybe Eva’s mother was looking down right now, aching for her little girl.
Feeling ashamed, she sat next to Eva. “I’m sorry I yelled. I would never hit you. Children should not be hit.”
She placed her hand lightly on Eva’s back until the sobs stopped.
“Can you look at me?” Christina whispered.
Eva lifted her head, her eyes still wet. Christina pulled her into her arms and rocked back and forth. It felt good to hold a little girl again. Her own tears fell. Grace was gone, but this child was here.
She stood up, still holding Eva, who now clung to her.
“Let’s finish your bed and have dinner. I don’t have a tree, but I have Christmas lights. You can help me place them around the fireplace.”
Eva smiled for the first time, and Christina caught a glimpse of Christmas joy.
1st Runner-Up – Gladys’ Cookies by Myrna Ossin
My best friend for twenty years lived across the cul-du-sac from me. Every May, just as the Kentucky Derby was over, she and her husband headed for their “camp” in, New York, in the Adirondacks. Gladys would hand me the keys to their house, the keys to their car, and off she and her husband would go. She was thirty years my senior and she had three girls that were close to my age, but the girls lived far away and the couple had adopted me as their second-home daughter. Gladys was a Radcliffe graduate and her husband, a Harvard graduate. It was so entertaining to spend time with them, my husband and I practically had to flip a coin to see who would get to take over the freshly a baked goodie or some interesting newspaper article to discuss. Gladys did all the activities I enjoyed-cooking, crafts, sewing, knitting, gardening, antiquing, and reading. One day, while we were baking together, I asked if I could borrow her recipe file.
She generously said, “ Anytime.“
That next summer, I spent a lot of time copying the handwritten recipes. In the days before computers, this was a tedious task. I especially treasured the five recipes of Christmas cookies she made every year. After the holidays, she always had a gift of a huge tin of cookies to celebrate my husband’s birthday.
As she aged, and her husband died, she decided to enter a retirement complex. Fortunately,it was close enough and she still could drive, so we frequently met for lunch. One day she was very late for our meeting. I called on my cellphone, but no answer. I waited thirty minutes and decided to order lunch. I called again, thinking it was very unlike her to forget. I figured old age must be settling in and she had to forgotten about our meeting. I did my shopping and upon my return home, I called again. Still no answer. I excused it thinking she must have gone somewhere for the day. Dinner came and went. Just before nine o’ clock, I tried once more. She always went to bed early. Still no answer. I thought maybe she was at a movie in the complex that had run late. The next morning at about eight, I got a call. It was her eldest daughter, who lived out of town.
“Hi, Pam. Are you visiting?”
“Yes. Are you sitting down?, “she asked.
“No, ” I responded.
“Then you better sit down.”
“Is Gladys all right,” was my immediate response.
“Gladys died yesterday. She had an aneurism and drove herself to the hospital. She was walking down the hall when it burst and she died immediately. “
I was blindsided. “What can I do to help you? “
“Can you meet me at the bank on 436? You are signed on mom’s account.”
( I had often signed papers for Gladys and her husband and I didn’t even remember signing a card to enter the bank vault.) I guess she figured that it would be good to have someone local that could be trusted if she needed something and couldn’t get to it herself.
“Sure,“ I said. “I’ll meet you in a half hour.” I signed the form at the bank and told her to come later for dinner. By that time Gladys’ youngest daughter had arrived and the girls explained that Gladys had told them about my younger daughter who was about to buy a house. They didn’t need anything from Gladys’ one bedroom efficiency and they said if we wanted to pack up anything there, my daughter could use it for her new home. They explained that their parents would have never been able to live so comfortably without us being there to help. I never gave that a thought. All those years I thought it was my family that benefitted. I still have one chair that Gladys loved that I sit in when I miss her. Every year for the past ten years I have baked the five recipes of cookies from Gladys’ file box and I send them at Christmas time to her three girls.
2nd Runner-Up – Holiday Hues by Marie Brack
December, when fall’s pleasant, undemanding browns and golds give way to the gaudy red, green, and tinsel of the often-forced gaiety of the Christmas season.
Green fir trees everywhere, the festive boughs invading my sinuses with pine allergens. Hab a berry barry Chrisbas while I take to my bed, suffering.
Red is the color of my bank balance as I shop anxiously for just the right gift for each of two dozen relatives, twelve coworkers, and ten neighbors. They already have everything, so it all hinges on how well I know and understand their hobbies and interests. I despair of that, since I really don’t know most of them terribly well.
Blue is my mood as I struggle with impossible shopping, hostile shoppers ending their tour with a friendly “Merry Christmas” to the clerk, dwelling inwardly on the sad inadequacy of my home holiday decorating.
Peach is the paint on my home’s blank exterior, pale in comparison to my neighbors’ gaudy holiday lights and inflatable Santas. Again, I have fallen short.
Yellow is my cowardice as I wonder if the relatives will be properly impressed by a mass Christmas email, or must I buy and mail “real” Christmas cards as I’ve done in the past? Would they settle for New Year’s cards? By then I might have time to write something in each one, as I feel compelled to do each year, and always fail.
Silver is the color of the fancy ribbon I intended to fold into the intricate bows I saw on Pinterest. Turns out I am all thumbs. After destroying several feet of it I simply tape it around the ill-wrapped packages I’ve hurriedly put together in the spare room at the last minute.
Golden brown cookies hot from the oven, a calming fall color until custom requires that I ice them with green trees garlanded in red, and those weird silver balls that no one knows whether to eat or not. Take them to work. Predictably, each one says, “Oh, I shouldn’t! My diet!” and then eats them anyway. Should I feel guilty for making them feel guilty? After all, baking is a required activity in December, whether you like it or not.
White is the altar cloth at the Christmas Eve church service. A moment of serenity in the midst of the frantic holiday demands.
The crisp gray chill of a blessed cold front prompts us to light the wood-burning fireplace rarely used in Florida. The grandbabies, ages two and four, have at last fallen asleep, no doubt dreaming of whatever Santa means to them at that age. We’ve filled their stockings and now sit, sock-feet up on the dark brown ottoman. Surfeited with holiday shapes and colors, we sip hot cocoa and eat plain tan-colored round cookies, watching the golden flames in the soot-stained hearth. The black coals are oddly soothing in their lack of color.
I reach out to my aging husband and he takes my hand, smiling. A lifetime of unspoken understanding passes between us. This is the fruit of all the half-successful holidays, the unsent cards, forgotten tasks, neglected chores, all the ways life is too real to be perfect, this understanding.