Posted November 14, 2017.

2017 Fall Contest Winner: 2nd Place, Theme–Current Events

Off Old Hwy. 99

Old men fill the donut shop this morning,
every morning, talking politics in

 

matched pairs; they agree about the state of
things, which is much worse than it used to be

 

when they were as young as the girl at the
glass case deciding on which donut she

 

will choose, and fearing the choice will be wrong—
not completely satisfactory.

 

But the sopapillas look like they might
have been touched with magic, and the pink ones

 

with sprinkles remind her of the sky at
sunset.  The old woman with the penciled

 

eyebrows smiles absently, knowing no choice
is ever the right one because there is

 

always regret when one thinks back, even
when all the choices lead to a kind of

 

happiness. Choosing means carrying the
heavy emptiness of what was not but

 

could have been. She turns her thoughts toward tonight,
when the men who look like her own children,

 

who love her like they loved their mother’s tongue,
will stop in and tell a story or two

 

while she pours tequila and drinks their words.
They will lift their glasses to ¡Arriba!

 

and brag and tease and laugh until they are
themselves again. Then it will be time to

 

shoo them home. There is work still for her to
finish, and she must rise early in the

 

morning tomorrow to create the world
again, and to welcome the old men in

 

to talk of what was but won’t be again.

 

Judge’s comments

We live in tumultuous times, and the poems entered in the Current Events category certainly reflect that. There were so many fine poems that judging was a delight.

“Off Old Hwy. 99” walks the knife edge between small, everyday joys and the political unrest shadowing the lives of many.

Jennifer Rood lives and teaches English in Grants Pass, Oregon. Her gift to her students each day is a poem, and she has been hard at work building a poetry culture in her little corner of the universe. She is thankful for the support and encouragement of her husband Robert and her friends in the Pagan Warriors poetry group.

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