Posted May 17, 2018.

2018 Spring Contest Winner: 1st Place, Poet’s Choice

Knowledge of Good and Evil

by Penelope Scambly Schott


I am a way better biter than Eve

or Adam. I go at apples entirely,

core and seeds, leaving nothing

but stem. I have built my house

out of stems, and between them,

a window. All these ageing years

l have stared out. Eve swallowed

while Adam watched and then bit.

You know the bitter punishment:

I groaned twice during childbirth,

uttered Excuse me. I am a cloud

above my two cottonwood trees,

in greenest love with their heart-

shaped leaves. My sweet babies

grow up and leave, though they

lurk under old bark. A skinny kid

yells Dude across the vacant lot.

He can’t imagine when his feet

in sneakers grew so enormous,

able to smash a fallen apple flat.

Far away in the city, a streetcar

clangs on its tracks like money,

throwing sparks. Before I travel

further into the dark, I’ll swallow

the worm in the apple and let it

replace my human voice. Bless

all the worms who comprehend

how stories can end in violence.

Or is struggle life’s given name?

I admired this planet most when

marmosets were the grown-ups

and no human—sapiens or less

sapiens—yet prowled this earth,

before any man hoisted a spear.


Judge’s comments

The poets of Oregon have so much to say to the world. They see a frayed time and write to patch the tears. They see intolerance and write to flip hatred the bird. Or they see the immense scope of the universe and write to zoom out and humble us with a reminder of its grandeur. Still others see the preciousness in the simplest moments and write to freeze those memories in polished amber. The best of this incredible bunch not only respond to the world in which we live, but create their own in the span of 80 lines or less. No small feat. But that’s the miracle of language and that’s why I hope every single one of these poets keep blessing us with their words.

—Armin Tolentino


Penelope Scambly Schott‘s most recent book is House of the Cardamom Seed. She lives in Portland and Dufur, Oregon, where she leads an annual poetry workshop.

One thought on “2018 Spring Contest Winner: 1st Place, Poet’s Choice

  1. “Or is ‘struggle’ life’s given name?”–perfect!

    I remember the first time I saw you eat an apple down to the stem–I thought it was quite a feat. But that was before I got to know you and discovered all the amazing talents you possess.

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