Professional Poet Category Winners
by Serina Hearn
Having fled too long
loaded with dress sizes too small,
points of reference obsolete.
Eventually, time’s river
swollen and greedy
took memory’s favorite doll,
names of friends, places;
forgetting made myself easier,
one breath at a time
was all I could
After Langston Hughes
Susan Whitmore - Fairway, KS
The Lehigh River
draped an apron of steam
Around Bethlehem Steel’s company mill,
Billowing white over black water, black factory.
Iron ore and coke
fire, metallic on my tongue.
steel-weary, took me to feed
Brown bread crusts to ducks, vapid in the vapor –
Ghosts disappearing as the workers would.
I was pregnant
with my first child and new
To the Netherlands, both of us now alien.
I walked every day at dusk along the River Maas
scent of sugar beets and soil
Turned over in the
fields I tramped through in boots –
Everything outside and inside glimmering as the last
Light lay its face on the water and the baby turned.
I did not plan to
land in Kansas, but life’s wing
Banked east, west and then landed me here.
On my first country hike alongside the Kaw
Spring dew damp on
my face, nestled in my hair
cottonwoods dropped white filaments
Through blue air. Then the wind wrote my name
On the water and the Kaw and Kansas claimed me.
Nonprofessional Poet Category Winners
by Tayler Klein
I thought I knew rivers
when I was small, and watched the Missouri fade
to an undetermined point on the horizon.
I knew it would slowly course into the belly
of the Mississippi
and its waters
would become the Mississippi’s waters.
In the presence of the
it would disappear into nothing,
all signs of the untamed west forgotten
within the long blue strands
destined for the ocean.
I was sorry for it, the
sorry for its muddy mess,
its dirty floodplains,
its shape held together by rusty bridges
that whistled and creaked in the wind.
But now I think of my
and how if I’d truly known rivers
I would have understood as she held me to her stomach
and let me dip my toes in,
and wet my head with cupped hands -
This muddy mess of a river
still courses through the body of the land,
and its fibers are braided into my hair.
by Canese Linn Jarboe
I've known rivers
to hide dark secrets in muddy,
tangled roots of virgin Dogwood trees,
stopping their sap-choked hearts.
The Lethe cut
through our back pasture
like a 17-year-old girl cutting class to
lean against the rotting fence and smoke cigarettes,
rubbing the cheap Salem ash on her face like
We stood barefoot
in the stagnant creek,
christening each other with the earth-warmed
water and I let it trail down my back, carrying my
sins with it.
I envied the
sun-dapple tattoo across her shoulders
as she watched our brother wash the
blood from his face and the crimson ribboned down
the stream like a bright flash from
a Molotov cocktail.
I've known rivers
to carry things away.
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