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.
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
“The Last of the Mohicans: For Helen”
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.
“An Elegy for my Father’s Youth”
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
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.
that I recognize
Photo: Bridget Fertal