William George Prize in Poetry

2018

This year forty-five poems submitted by twenty-five students were judged anonymously by Katy Didden, author of The Glacier’s Wake, winner the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize from Pleiades Press in 2013.

First Prize: "My Purgatorio" by Matt Dorsey

Second Prize: "Autumn-time Sadness" by Mengxiao (Michelle) Ma

Autumn-time Sadness 秋日离歌

There I stood
In my deepest (/desperate) hope
Across the oceans
A boat to (/can) take me home

The day I have been waiting (for) so long
That I would be back
On an October morning
The perfume of the fresh osmanthus
In every pitter patter of autumn rain
And every gentle breeze
Brings mom’s calling from the distance

I would put dad’s large, rough hands in mine
I would whisper to his semi-deaf ear
I would have him look at me
Thoroughly, through his misty eyes

I would trace every path I used to take
I would walk with bare feet
On the muddy roads after rain
In petrichor, in showers of maple leaves
Wherever I go—

I would look back on those memories
To see those lovely faces
I would, put my hands, gently, on the ground
To feel the embers of their beating hearts

But I cannot
After all my futile attempts—

Why, my eager no longer stays
And my hollow heart,
It aches, so sharply
And finally it dies,
Just like those withered autumn days
Buried deep,
And settled right beside them

—Mengxiao (Michelle) Ma


Notes: This is a story about a Chinese soldier who was far away from home during World War II. He was always seeking to go back to see his gerontic parents, and was always looking back on the old happy times. But when he was finally able to go home after the war, he found his parents dead and buried. His heart was full of sorrow and he fell in abysmal despair.

Honorable Mention: “The Flood” by Teddy Gerard

The Flood

After the rains had stopped flooding the world
Noah left the haggard hull of the ship
And ascended to the deck, expecting
To be met by dolphins jumping with waves
And sea mist to drizzle against his face,
Dried by the dank musk of his animals,
And to lap his tongue at the fresh water
For a drink to wet his parched, arid throat.

Decay’s fetor pierced his nose, teared his eyes,
The stale air of death suffocated him.
And through his watery eyes he saw over
The ship’s bow, bodies floating by, face down,
Backs forever turned away from heaven,
Bloated, pale, swollen; fish picking soft flesh
From bones; fat and skin swaying in the slow
Current. And when Noah ran to expel
The sickness from his body, he peered in
The ocean and saw the cities below,
Drowned, lost, the Light barely reaching the tops
Of buildings. And he faced the infested
Ocean for days, unsure he could—he should
Look up and to pray or join his people
By throwing himself into the dead sea.
There he stayed, unable to look away
From the bloody baptism of sinners,
Those who had dared to be less than prophets,
Who had fallen prey to humanity.
And there Noah baked and burnt in the sun,
His face blistered, cracked and bled down his face,
And on the third day he collapsed and grieved,
And the world flooded again with the tears
Of his pain. And his tears mixed with the blood
Drained from the drowned, swirled into a red wine,
A rotting poison, a blood sacrifice.
And he lay on the ship, caught between worlds,
On one side, a loving God, the other,
The hell brought forth by his God’s loving way.

—Teddy Gerard

Honorable Mention: “Did You Hear a Gunshot?” by Allen Shorey

Did You Hear a Gunshot?

After “Still Life with Basket of Fruit” by Severin Roesen

I am the fresh white baby eggs in the nest,
My own little cradle, my life jacket.
It keeps me from drowning under the silent beauty.

I am the vine holding the glistening grapes,
And all of this here fruit together strong.
I hold the soft spoken beauty for you.

I am the gold leaves but I am green, too.
It depends on what angle you view me from.
My beauty lies in my mystery, my dew is glinting.

I am the end of the twigs—two on each side.
I know that Great War is coming to this table.
I look like a fuse about to light and set this all ablaze.

—Allen Shorey


Honorable Mention: “The Once-Ace Axeman Axed” by Dominic Pancella

The Once-Ace Axeman Axed

The men in fall who deftly fell
The vivid-colored trees,
And when they fall, see where they fell,
And beat a quick retreat—

The firewood they gathered would
Fain make a city warm
If what was stuck in stacks of sticks
Could do no person harm.

But all they chopped should just be chipped—
This winter, we'll be cold—
A man be slapped, for when he slipped,
For all the wood he culled

Has squirrels, bees, termites, disease,
A geocaching stash,
A nest—with eggs—some sap, and fleas
(And fifty dollars cash).

No, wintertime will not be tame,
As one could fill a tome
With all that teems in these wood beams
You won't want in your home.

—Dominic Pancella

Archive

2017

First Place

Nocturne of the Night

- Joey Dougherty

Briny froth and forlorn mire
Dancing shadows ‘round the fire
Downcast muck and silent pool
String entwined upon the spool
Serpent coiled amongst the brush
Welcoming nocturnal hush
Howling wolf and brightest moon
Haunting calls of lark and loon
Dampest marsh of stinking rot
Knightly horse of proudest trot
Blackest pitch of deadly night
Ere the forthcoming new light
Heat and cold are one again
Omen of the calling hen

Second Place

Morior Invictus

— Matt Friedrichs

For the quietly wounded souls
Besieged by an enemy of woe,
Out of many, he rises to the role
Of the silent, forgotten hero.

His toll for glory is soon seen unclad,
The innocent hands made coarse.
A detached death calls to his comrades;
Its judgment swift, with no remorse.

He leaves that horror behind,
But its shadow still looms near
And in an ignorant world it finds
A foothold of doubt and fear.

Though he may be committed to the deep
Beyond heavenly gates so bright yet narrow,
It is our duty to remember and keep
The few, the humble, the hero.

Honorable Mention

6 AM Seiren Song

— Nicholas Sondermann
A siren screams red and blue into the inky black
Around a street lamp that flickers yellow onto my damp jacket.
The siren comes close then is far from me completely.
The siren cries for blood,
It urges all to stop and witness its lust.
It howls into the dark and,
as I walk,
I breathe slowly the cries of the dying
caught by the siren.
I wait for it to stop.
The siren fades and my ears ring 10,000 church bells in the stillness and,
with the sun still minutes away,
the early morning stars close their clouds to me.
Weeping.
Rain.
Falling on the holy and the damned.

The William George Prize in Poetry—named for English teacher Bill George, whose poems have moved the SLUH community with their wit, their honesty, and their generous good will—is given annually to recognize excellence in student poetry.