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

Fall 2021 Adult Contest Winning Poems for 30 and Under Category

Judge:  Penelope Scambly Schott

Judge’s Biography:  Penelope Scambly Schott is an appreciative member of OPA, a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry, and author of several books, including two about her town of Dufur, Oregon, and one co-written by her dog.  If or when Covid ever ends, she hopes to re-start both the White Dog Poetry Salon in Portland and her annual workshop in Dufur.

First Place 30 and Under:  “CR3210” by McKayla Gallup

I lived on a road without a name, only a number larger than the population of the town it
                  meandered to in a dusty sort of cursive that spelled out nothing when I traced it to
nowhere with the soles of my feet and the break in a branch.

We held library cards in three counties because we were kicked out of the one in the city after
my brother forgot his shoes and the nearest town only had a single shelf of dog-eared donations
but my mother believed in education and enforced silence.

My sister and I found a dead mockingbird on the side of a cattle guard and crawled over the
rusting slats to carry it home, but halfway down the hillside we buried it in the creekbed by the
cemetery where there was limestone to spare between the stagnant puddles.

My parents bought the produce stand across from the Baptist church and next to the Methodists
from Roger and his wife because she said that they were ready to die but Roger spit tobacco into
the rows of tomatoes and painted over the sign before leaving.

When the squashbugs swarmed that year, we painted the fields in hot pepper pulp and my mother
read Habakkuk 3:17 like a cadence over our sunburnt scalps, then The Odyssey
when winter came early and we packed green tomato mincemeat into mason jars and piecrusts.

There was a barbeque restaurant in the old gas station for a few summers and the owner made us
call her Aunt Penny because it’s not charity when it’s family and she sent us back with bags of
Texas toast and clamshells of brisket ends when my sister got sick.

The table under the oak tree was for sandwiches and subtraction, but when there was no shade
we sat in the cold room or on the desks someone left in the abandoned duplex that my dad
always said he was going to fix up after my sister fell on the bare beams and broke her nose.

I drove back across the creek a few years ago and it wasn’t dry at all – the library had another
room and the gas station was an art gallery and the duplex was lived-in and I wonder how many
mockingbirds had to drown first to pave this gravel road in running water.

Poet’s Bio:  McKayla is a PNW transplant who loves apples, poetry and cats. She recently started attending her local poetry group in Vancouver, WA and began writing again.

Second Place 30 and Under:  “On Considering Lilies” by Katie Findlay Tucker

It was a Sabbath, much like the rest
though different enough to remember.

The blow of hot kitchen air;
It’s easy now to feel it.
Twinkling, droning piano music plays on the stereo.
“Consider the Lilies”

whatever that means

My baby blanket, hung over the window;
sweet and tattered pink and green
eternal, soft and trim sateen.

As late afternoon sun beat in
over the family dining table,
normally five but set for seven.
The elders are here to share a lesson.

The flavors of a Sunday,
both appetizing and upsetting –
yeast rolls with margarine.
My mind recounts its every sin.

Dad asks me to bless the food.
Inside my mouth, saliva pools.
I feel guilty no matter what I do.
May as well start smoking too.

Poet’s Bio:  Katie Findlay is a poet out of the Columbia River Gorge. As a new mother, she began writing as a way to connect with herself at the end of each day. Her work is a collection of those late night musings, as well as bittersweet reflections on her own upbringing. She has not yet been published.

Third Place 30 and Under:  “look who’s inside again” by Mo Rose App-Singer

(after bo burnham)

i stubbed my toe on the keyboard stand
instead of making music on that first day inside,
and i screamed at the ceiling or maybe to god,
but didn’t we kill him with early spring heatwaves?
i was alone and contained on the tiled floor, leaking
wine-thin blood, my skin bruising
like a peach so ripe it fell from
a garden centerpiece’s branch.
my four walls were painted
with red-smoke spotlights,
scrapes scratched out by uncut fingernails.
when i cried it did not resound
like an anthem or a synth-pop epic.
it was touch and go for a while,
but in interviews, i will omit the slam of toe to stand,
instead, i will tell them that
i chose to create, that when i heard drums from my
neighbor’s cracked window,
i followed the rhythm like a commandment
towards the sunlight on swollen, purple feet.

Poet’s Bio:  Mo Rose App-Singer (they/them) is a poet, geek, music nerd, and meme enjoyer. They have been writing since they were eight years old. Currently, they are seventeen and are well on their way to dominating the world by way of words.

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