Read the Winning Poems from OPA’s 30 and Under Category

October 24, 2022



1st Place – Smoke, TJ Foltz

2nd Place – Fetch, Julia Fritz-Endres

3rd Place – This Twilight, Christopher Foufos

1st HM – Racing, Olivia Niland

2nd HM – To The Cabbage White Butterfly Who Frequents My Lettuce Patch, Caroline Holm

3rd HM – Earth, Levi Krum

Judge’s Comments:

“Smoke” contains searing father-son initiation pain with tender son-to-father reconciliation in real world imagery.

“Fetch”  is a stealthy mixture of cute kitten rhymes with a second stanza that offers the juxtaposition of wild animal behavior that could come from inside that kitten.

“This Twilight” is at first a straight ahead snapshot of the title, but with a nice example of blending senses, synesthesia:  “song of tree crickets… becomes a feeling” and “fading heat

becomes a sound.”


Smoke – 1st Place, TJ Foltz

Sometimes I peel my skin to see which parts hurt. Pull up scabs and ruin their healing; because you always thought I’d look better in scars and now, I hate to admit, so do I.

You’d balm your skin while passing torch that burned you, left hand betraying the right; crackling of its molten anger only drowned out by the volume of the lessons between your words.

You taught me to measure my masculinity in empty liquor bottles and full perscriptions; your lesson that real men only dull their pain when they pretend it’s for fun.

That service was inseparable from suffering, that goodness exists only to spite the dents in the same vessel and that as such it must be dented.

You taught of obedience through fear holding your doctrine to be as genuine as it is just; building paper walls for us to keep the world from the wood.

Your claim of course not to be mistaken, that you love me and that I am doomed. Yet fear was never a virtue, and your tradition cannot be my truth.

You taught that only love was set in stone; as if proof of rock’s mortality was not sewn across the beaches or blown in the wind.

Perhaps I kicked drugs to became addicted to tattoos when they let me feel pain, and build to something that might be permanent, or because they make my scars look like something I could love.

You think I hate you, I wish I did. Pictures are so much more complicated than paintings, and conversations so much harder than poems. Burning your flag kept it off my shoulders, yet the memory of its embers brings more remorse than thrill.

And as such, I think of you whenever I smell smoke in my clothes. Nose filled with the rustic guilt of what I’ve done to keep myself warm. The loud blank memories that could fall anywhere between bonfires and funeral pyres.

TJ Foltz is an up and coming poet from here in Oregon who, like most poets, endeavors to find ways to communicate complex emotions through his poems. He’s been writing consistently for two years and shows no sign of giving up his pursuit of his perfect poem.


Fetch – 2nd Place, Julia Fritz-Endres

last week I trained Olive to fetch

a fuzzy blue ball, bring it back to me

with time, this little gray kitten learned not to claw

not to bite

I could only see her in the early morning and at night

so in the day she played

amid empty pizza boxes and

the dish rack and the moldy chilly in the fridge

she ripped up string and draped pieces

like so many trophies on couch cushions

hung them from the arms of house plants

tucked them under the sink

the times when I waited for her to fall asleep

she spooned a teddy bear with gray fur like hers

and I imagined her waking to find her legs around it

this object that is almost a fellow being but with button eyes

I imagined her kicking its head clean off, back legs thumping

ripping out its insides

stretching its intestines across the floor

in a map for me to follow, to find my way back to her

then when I finally arrived

running up to the door before I could open it

refusing to eat until

I’d whispered her name.

Julia Fritz-Endres is an aspiring poet who spent much of her childhood curled up on a rock in the woods with a notebook in her lap. She has been writing poetry and short stories ever since. She grew up in Massachusetts, although has fallen in love with Portland, Oregon since moving there in 2021. She currently works in communications within the climate justice movement.


This Twilight – 3rd Place, Christopher Foufos

These late summer evenings

are mystifying by nature.

As the days of August wane

and September nights bloom,

my senses seem to falter.

Textures and stimuli converge and blend

in this ethereal space

positioned between light and dark.

The song of the tree crickets

becomes a feeling.

The fading heat

becomes a sound.

I am in rapture

as I scrutinize the unique complexion

of each falling sun.

The colors bleed and pool

at the mountain clad horizon.

Hues of coral and mauve;

Seeping from the brilliant twilight.

Christopher Foufos was born and raised in the small rural town of Dundee, Oregon. He graduated from Portland State University with an undergraduate degree in Social Science with an emphasis in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies. His passions lie in writing and travel, so he wishes to eventually graduate from his oh so romantic position of moving boxes in a warehouse to a career in which he can pursue something in those fields.


JUDGE James Merrill taught high school English in California and at Chemawa Indian School in Salem  — where he moved after earning his MFA at the Jack Kerouac School of Poetics, Naropa Institute in Boulder. After that, he taught Composition and Creative Writing at University of Colorado, Denver as well as one term as an exchange professor for CU – Denver in Beijing, China. After retiring from Chemawa, Jim has been busy teaching ESL to immigrants and refugees (including Ukraine) and Creative Writing at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.

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