Writing contest: Adult Poetry

"If a poem hasn't ripped apart your soul; you haven't experienced poetry." — Edgar Allen Poe (photo Matthew Brady)


Basia Miller, Santa Fe

This afternoon, I drove down Old Santa Fe Trail

to the boot repair shop with a plan to perfect

my old walking shoes with new shoestrings. My life

runs a gamut, like matryoshka, from large to small.

Mr. Jacobs unspools a length of black cord —

Do you want 40 inches? and razor-cuts it. His pliers

pinch copper aglets to the ends of each string.

Rows of wooden lasts sway on the wall.

Doll-sized leather boots crowd a display case.

The cash register’s perfectly good, he tells me.

It dates to the Twenties and it came with the place.

He goes on, The city archaeologist brought me a ledger

of Spanish maps of the Tenorio grant. He waves at the Trail.

Outside was just a path. My family was here.

He shrugs. Last century’s Spanish flu, it’s not so long ago.

Take my father’s birth and his father’s, soon you’re back

to seventeen-sixty-five when they built this adobe.

They’re nothing new either, animal diseases leaping to humans.

I say brilliantly, This one came from pangolins. Suddenly

he’s gone, to return with a dusty album. My curiosity’s piqued.

Pangolins look exactly like anteaters — here, you can see.

Ron Jacobs flips to a shot of a pair of tall boots

he built years ago from anteater skin, here in the shop

on Old Santa Fe Trail where I buy my shoestrings.


Mary Ann Crowe, Santa Fe

Fallen leaves return to their roots — a Chinese Proverb

Alpine waters flow beside time-worn cobblestones where

I was born ten miles from Dachau in the “U.S. War Zone.”

Sacrifices from my American families, our unlikely

patchwork of allies divided by North and South,

united to free the medieval city of my birth —

amid ruins of plagues and war over centuries —

banishing that latest world-wide contagion,

even the cobblestones freed from harrowing sounds,

no more staccato from the boots of marching Nazis.

Yet today we hear America’s remaining World War II

refugees and Holocaust survivors report increased

levels of PTSD.

Some believe that death will return our souls

to a place we were before we were born.

So I’ll pray my soul shall not return to the small

Bavarian town up the Isar River, home to no friends

nor familial roots, where a forced labor camp once

supported Dachau’s gruesome machinations.

Let my seeds and last leaves nourish peace I’ve found

here with streets of old stone and mountain-fed streams

of the native Tewa White Shell water that sustained

Santa Fe.

No, my soul need not boomerang back

across the Atlantic —

all my beloved country a plagued

U.S. war zone now.


Paula Miller, Santa Fe

During this pandemic, my chattering self

talks too much to echoes, listens earnestly

to random noise bouncing back

off the walls of my brain

Replies come in Spanish and French,

once in a while in German

I’m amazed at my mastery of swear words,

little obscenities that slip out

and tiny bits of knowledge and wisdom

retained within the softness of my mind.

I hold grand conversations with nobody

check to see that somebody isn’t listening

which, of course, somebody is

and shaking her head at all this drivel

held within the envelope of my brain

I seem to carve chatter out of this confinement

without tipping over into insanity

Perhaps I am staying sane, remaining healthy

by carrying on these endless discussions in my mind,

In this pandemic pantomime of normal life,

I have become both erudite and crude,

a coarse reflection of hidden parts

of myself, kept safely in the netherworld

out of reach of my personal censor.

My husband’s voice often startles me

with words from outside my own skin,

tiny love arrows aimed at my whole person

I shudder with the transition from inside to out, [shiver, tremble]

from the soft matter living within my skull

to the firm warmth of human companionship.

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