top of page

Ragan Poetry Contest Winners

The winners of the twenty-third annual Ragan Poetry Contest presented their work during the last entry of this year’s Vising Writers Series.

Paula Bohince, award winning author of three poetry collections, read the entries and chose the winners of the contest.

Paisley Adams, junior art education major, won first place and a $250 prize.

John Wojtechko, senior communication and English major, won second place and a $100 prize.

Anthony Horner, senior English major, won third place and a $50 prize.

The Ragan Poetry Contest was established in 1995 by Dr. James Ragan, a 1966 graduate of Saint Vincent. The award is intended to encourage interest in poetry among Saint Vincent students.

The competition was open to all Saint Vincent students, and the three winners were chosen by Bohince.

The event took place on Monday, March 19 in the Luparello Lecture Hall, with students, as well as friends and family of the winners, in attendance.

First Place:

“Our Seasons”

Paisley Adams

We are a tree

Our trunk is knotted in twists and turns as your branches entangle mine

The bed is as soft as new soil and the space between our mouths is a seed

We have started this immovable journey here

Let’s grow together and see the seasons

To meet in the spring and start a new life

Planting our roots side by side so we may rise together

Your tongue like the rain pours out

I flourish here, with your body covering me like bark shielding away the storms

I will hide here like an owlet always awake

You sleep and guard me and I’ll listen for the thunder that might strike us

Despite the storms, you love the spring

The green and the puddles that you catch from my eyes

Keeping me safe as your new favorite song

When summer comes and storms quell we shall point upwards

The blue sky will reflect off your blue eyes

I will glow in the sun and I will give you fireflies at night

Our love will illuminate as the clear starlight shines through our leaves

We will be tangled guardians of the night and homes for wishing birds at dawn

Your branches will hold firm under the weight of my hopes

My branches will fall into yours to catch any more precious seeds of dreams that fall

Then the leaves that covered our youth fall too

I can’t catch all of them, cascading out of my reach like snakes

The autumn comes and you and I ignite

One last spark of romantic fire before we lose what sheltered us

The years that blaze in and out of every second of our embrace

We value our dying flames like moths but sometimes we just watch

Children playing in the youth we left them, planting seeds out of memories

Knotted together so tight now we are indistinguishable

The bed unmade beneath us

We don’t know how long we have seen the sun rise over forests

My bare twigs knitted between your creaking shoulders

Winter whips at our old age

But we are more together than ever

Unfeeling of the cold, in our eternal embrace we are a hearth

Our souls wound tightly through seasons past

The rings we wear are deep inside, immune to the frosts of frailty

Outside we do not shiver but sleep longer these days to keep each other warm

A squirrel came to our final flame for respite once, bearing news we had blissfully forgotten

He told us “trees don’t live forever”

We ignored him with wise ignorance

Trees don’t last forever but our roots we will hold

Our first kiss – the moment the first flower bloomed

College, the saplings that cried out tears of dew

Lumberjacks with axes of words that almost severed us

Our trunks wrapped in each other’s sturdy branches were too strong for them

The years and experiences we saw on our own little piece of the world

The blizzard that came after the squirrel was terrifying and calming

Together in our bed still wrapped, fingers intertwined

The howls were whispers

We are a tree

We don’t last forever

But the seeds we’ve sown before the final gust of death

Will always grow again

Second Place:

“The Last of the Mohicans: For Helen”

John Wojtechko

Her arm like a pincushion

She was an accordion, sliced bread

Her clot pushed on all of our hearts

My brothers and I got to the hospital around one o’clock

She had already been there for more than twenty-four hours

But hadn’t been able to rest yet

She said that when the nurse looked sad and when the family was all around her, she knew that something was going on

So she began to pray

Jesus, I place myself into your hands

She’s reminding us of the chicken croquettes she has to make

And the Easter chocolate she has to order

Not to mention the fact that she missed her hair appointment

I’m not ready to go, she told us

She said she still has work to do, and I’m inclined to believe her

She told us where the recipes are and where some petty cash is hidden

We went home that night and ordered pizza

In the fridge was a stained beige pot from next door filled with stuffed peppers

I had never felt so sad to see that pot

It doesn’t look good is one of those clichés that you only hear on TV

But before I knew it, Grandad was driving us back to Mercy

She’s been old my entire life, but now it meant something

The colored screens and random equipment were like something from a science fiction movie

She appeared like an astronaut ready to go into orbit

Who knew how difficult breathing could look

My uncle just had ankle surgery and had a difficult time standing up

You’re worse off than I am, Paul, she said

Of everything she’s lost in the last 90 years, her mind has never been one of them

She motioned for a hug

I love you, she said

I love you too, I cracked

Don’t forget me.

Third Place

“An Elegy for my Father’s Youth”

Anthony Horner

Nothing remains in your graying hair,

once black and long beneath a cap,

your favorite sports team paraphernalia.

Nor in your blackened teeth

for which the gels and pills are lined up;

teeth that once bit me,

left an imprint on my arm to teach me:

I must not bite my siblings.

Nor in the cackling laughter

of your boyish humor.

Not in the videogames you buy and play

while I sneak into buildings to rest my head.

Not in your ascetic habit of sleeping

on a couch instead of a bed

in the house that houses your new

family as the old dies and distances.

A necessity. For by becoming far,

they refuse the collection of your egregions

and go forth hoping to bear your intolerables.

But I have been slow to learn.

For I was so attached, so

desperately attached

to counting dice

and spaces on the green carpet.

To solving my coloring-book puzzles

beside your armchair.

To your presence so much so

I stayed awake, collecting nightmares,

when a Stephen King was the only showing

in the living room.

To the space behind your knees.

To the rooms of the church we cleaned

on Saturdays and the hotdogs we ate

in the library.

To the pizza-stuffed cracker snacks

you provided me when you encouragingly

dropped me off for the chess tournament

at the library.

To the moment I cried and you held

me at the edge of my bed

and agreed you were wrong.

Nothing remains

that I recognize

Photo: Bridget Fertal

bottom of page