Poet's Corner


Four OLLI poets received awards for six poems at the Poetry Society of Virginia's 2012 award ceremony. Four of the winning poems may be read below. The fifth poem, Debra Adler's A Small Gesture, appeared in E-News on May 4. The sixth poem, Jan Bohall's Hidden Memory, is in the May 11 edition of E-News.

The Marsh Hawk and My Mother-In-Law

They faced each other across the room,
marsh hawk
neither moving, both antiques, one barely
living, the other never having been at all,
and both weathered in that particular way
that others of their sort are inclined to do.

He was already there when she was born,

the Marsh Hawk was, and she knew he
would survive her, hanging there mounted
and framed for posterity, one eye fixed
in an eternal state of daunting readiness.

We never discussed him, his origins or

value, brushstrokes on branches with tufts
of moss, his imposing masculinity in her
watercolor songbird sanctum, the future,
or the stark inevitability of his disposition.

She died on a Wednesday peacefully,

her faithful sentry undeterred, majestic
and proud the both of them, he became
her final gift, unspoken, and though not
antique myself, I know he will outlast me.

Debra B. Adler


Thomas Wolfe Revisited

It is hard to go home again

as Thomas Wolfe said so well,
easier now since caring for parents
means to clip weeds around headstones
plant perennials to raise hope for renewal,
past years of duty-driven visits
negotiating ways to ease days
met with strong resistance
implied criticism, outright refusal,
denial of need. Sorrowful faces,
depressed airs, discouraged words.
Easier now with a coverlet of guilt
over missed opportunities to open fully
tightly closed doors, let a fresh
wind blow through.
                Jan Bohall

Purple Finch                      

Improbably pink, slight, you are unmistakable, perched at the tube
          feeder’s edge or flipped neatly sideways to seek out
                    kernels in the song bird blend.

Or else in motion, flicking from top to twig to outer limb,
          keeping track of the familiar, checking on things.
                    But once I watched while you stood

still beside the feeder as though stunned, or bemused, as if the breeze
          had overturned a screen and you had seen the back side
                    of the known world. It’s more likely

you had flown into the window with its hard false sky, but in any case
          you weren’t moving, except for those continual sharp looks
                    from side to side at what

had been there before—trowel, chaise, looped garden hose--and still
          were. Convalescent, you skipped to a higher spot
                    but paused again, slack-winged,

and held for a long moment there, balanced between the hard facts
          of wood and air until the air, insistent,
                    swirled and received you back.
                                                Caroline McNeil

On the Great Egg Harbor Bay

This great, grey way, this

Unmarked parking lot without the cars,
But naturally the seagulls:
Just a few boats in the whitecaps today.
This prairie with fish, a chunk of the blue
Globe in the library, but bleached
To hard gunmetal in the sun,
Shade, and rain. This reach of water unthinkable
To the folks from Utah, Nebraska, North Platte—Oh,
They do have the great rivers notching down
From highlands in the spring; adjacent
Summer floods matched only by
The twice daily high tides here,
But nothing compared to the breadth and depth
Of this salt arm of what must be
An endless sea, there beyond the channel
Between the outer islands.

I’m age ten or so, the skiff’s four times that,

Heavy with paint and old caulking,
Scarcely eleven foot on the waterline, now
In the chop of an incoming tide
Countering the west wind,
Trying to get her to pass
Above the shallow bank that I’m sure
Houses the flatfish no one’s yet found.
(There’s another name for them of course,
But omen-struck as all bayfolk are,
I don’t call them flounder since
Naming calls, and something might hear me
Summoning with verb and not the noun.)

I’d like to say I caught the fish that day

But didn’t. What I did hook and keep,
Digested as well, was
The memory of that great waterway
And the forever flavor of,
The sense of being on the bay.  

Mike Mc Namara

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May 3, 2012

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