The Mercer Island Reporter recently launched its first-ever fall poetry contest with the theme “autumn.” Thank you to the poets who together submitted nearly 100 poems.
The panelist of judges for the contest included Reporter editor Carrie Rodriguez, Reporter staff writer Katie Metzger and Bellevue Reporter staff writers Allison DeAngelis and Shaun Scott.
Congratulations to the following winners:
First place goes to Mercer Island resident Riley Grace Borden for the poem “The Syllabic Snap of Spoken Silence”; second place goes to Islander Deborah Sulc for her poem “Autumn Theater”; and third place goes to Islander Melanie Fink for her poem “Timeless.”
The Reporter also chose a poem to receive an honorable mention. Here are the winning selections:
First place: ‘The Syllabic Snap of Spoken Silence’
Neon are the dying, deceased leaves in a coat on the ground,
slippery and fluid like the thick- thin tone neutral circles I crack,
bleeding into a bowl (like heads slammed on graphitized ground)
Wind comes with warning, as does the graphic material that marches
in interrupted waves from the talkative hole in our wall
Sleepy and cold, bitten foliage in the vengeful air, are my hands that have held
guns and knives and fritzed with fire
The same blades and snaps and booms (see that burning power pole?)
that have sent so many away to the place
we escaped, the place we lingered in this familiar limbo
like those mocked voices, trapped in fallen cedars’ wombs
Sewn shut, suppressed by the burning pan sautéing those bleeding circles,
are the mouths that scream NO and WAIT and WHY
My ringtone is Firework by Katie Perry (the same colors that were in the sky during July are the ground)
says the same voice that didn’t quake
when it told me we were fighting, now at war with bombs and hatred
and our own blossoming, no, wilting geography
at war with the countries none of us can locate with our clipped nails,
that none of us, with our pumpkin spiced necks and dangling skeleton- key wrists, can speak of
For our human wings have been jilted off course by an un-forecasted gust of wind
and we are recently deserted tree limbs waiting on the road’s side in a sort of regular depression
to be run over
By the blaring, luminescent sun, no, TV screens we gaze at mutely, by the holes in our walls telling us
(Too late) that we have been sliced; we have been smashed by a distant storm
Rolled (like rowboats in whitecaps) by others’ preplanned, pre-approved words
that were sewn in cross stich with unclean needles and sliced with their heads on the graffiti
in that distant geography
Laying still and clotted over colorful leaves, no graffiti, on asphalt, no, words,
we humans are too afraid to speak
Riley Grace Borden, age 16
Second place: ‘Autumn Theater’
Behind the curtain of night, with restless anticipation,
the trees’ summer leaves change to their finest fall attire
to begin their annual performance, their radiant display.
Unveiled by the dawn they begin their show in
the autumn breeze, these distinguished arboreal
players demonstrating an awe-inspiring celebration,
a dance of color and singular beauty.
Tenaciously clinging to their branches they regale an
admiring audience with a pantomimed story of
how humble beginnings become brilliant endings,
performing for as long as nature’s script will allow.
Then with the rustling shimmer of vainglorious
applause comes the final act, the curtain call,
and with the urging of gales and gusts they
take their final bow, release with a flourish
and twirl and tumble in their exit to the chilly ground
as the theater of trees closes its doors until spring.
Deborah Sulc, age 62
Third place: ‘Timeless’
Emerging from the warm confines of the cozy restaurant
We step into the chill of the autumn air.
Buttoning our jackets up to our necks we set off
Holding hands, inhaling deeply,
Feeling the contentment of solitude in a city
That has already shuttered itself away.
Old storefronts with fanciful metalwork,
Huge, looming, state-of-the-art apartment buildings,
Lumber yards, dockyards, miniscule front yards,
Vestiges of the not-so-distant past of this historic neighborhood,
And then it hits us like a revelation
The undeniable smell of the ocean.
Not a sweet, honeyed scent, but the briny, seaweedy aroma of the Salish Sea.
Pungent, intoxicating, evocative,
Of delving in tidepools, scrambling crabs, volcanic barnacles,
Other-worldly kelp, primeval herons, Mt. Rainier.
And always a hint of a promise
Of summery days on the beach, and impending winter.
Melanie Fink, age 53
Honorable Mention: ‘Autumn Leaves in Washington’
Ocher, golden autumn leaves,
fluttering & dancing in the wind.
Oak leaves gently falling
To the ground.
Great Cedar trees, old Spruce trees
Maple, Linden, Birch and Elm,
all mighty trees undressing
for winter’s hibernation.
Green moss, green apples,
And green grass,
Fall is calling you.
Orange pumpkins, gourds
Fall is beckoning you.
Start running all you turkeys.
Pumpkin pie and candied yams
Are getting ready for the feast.
The temperature is changing,
Cold nights replace cool breezes.
Time to turn back the clocks.
Time to get out the sweaters
And the rain boots.
Time to marvel at
Fabulous Fall Palette.
Carol Barnett, age 73