Read the Winning Poems from OPA’s Poet’s Choice Category

October 24, 2022



1st Place – La Chua, Alison Gaines

2nd Place — At St. Mary’s, Suzy Harris

3rd Place — Pink Bubble Technology, DM Wallace

1st HM — Upon Learning of a Friend’s Suicide, Robert Eastwood

2nd HM – Amelia,  Scottie Sterrett

3rd HM — I’ll Tell You What I Saw, Charles Castle

Judge Comments:

Others I also enjoyed, in no particular order:

Snapshot: The Cow & the Girl, Louhi Pojola

Bird House, Kari Hakan

The End of Something, Vivienne Popperl

Comfort Found in a Box of Cream of Wheat, Shawn Aveningo Sanders


La Chua – 1ST Place, Alison Gaines

This is the only place

I was ever happy, you said,

describing the place down the road

where leathery reptiles emerge

from dark, shallow water;

where fast-growing hyacinths

support the weight

of the neon-iridescent birds

that hurry, yellow-legged, across them,

where small raptors circle for snails,

coming back around

like clockwork.

The screech of other invasives

fills the air and the slight

stink of the swamp rises,

and it pleases you.

Why is this place happiness?

Where else is everything so

laid bare, limitless,

not concealed

behind thick stands of trees

or rocky foothills?

Here, families of a dozen

small chicks paddle out

amidst what may kill them.

Sadness does not conceal itself here,

and what’s hiding must be flushed out

from the clumps of reeds

to face the sun, or the heavy gray clouds,

or whatever is reflected

past where the boardwalk

will take you.

Alison Gaines lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches high school English. She holds a BA from Knox College and an MFA in poetry from the University of Florida. Her work appears in several journals including Salamander and The Southern Review.


At St. Mary’s – 2nd Place,  Suzy Harris

after Lucille Clifton’s “blessing the boats”

when all is said and done, may

we recognize how the tide

brings us back to all that

we ever knew, all that is

forever inside us, entering

and leaving, stroking and breathing, even

when we least know it, now

and before, how the lip

of the wave rolls over grains of

sand. no one knows our

story, even those with understanding.

still, we try. here, let me carry

your bag for a moment while you

walk beside, our bare feet making tracks out

of the small village, beyond

the cafes that line the beach to the face

of the rock at the headlands, where we let go of fear

and find our way back down again. may

we remember this sky, this sun. May you

face your loss with a kiss,

the strength of the wind,

resolve of the ancestors, then

when you are ready, turn

away from it all, from

the past with its smallness, and find it

a new home, maybe a carved box, a certain

place that will appreciate all that

it was meant to be. perhaps it

will free you to find a new way, will

leave you changed. love

will find its way back into your

hands, your breath, back

into whatever may

come next for you

now count to ten and open

your heart. Listen to your

fears, close your eyes

and remember how to

swim under water

that feeling of gliding under water

breathless and waving

with the water’s motion forever

breast-stroking through long glides and

surging back into your own body. may

your loss not define you

and when you are ready in

that moment your

grace and innocence

will sail

home again through

what is no longer the empty place, this

place of sun and sand, to

the unknown but welcoming that

Suzy Harris has recently served as poetry editor of Timberline Review. Her chapbook “Listening in the Dark”, about losing her hearing and learning to hear again with cochlear implants, is forthcoming from The Poetry Box in February 2023.


Pink Bubble Technology ™ — 3rd Place, DM Wallace

Anyone can put a pink bubble around themselves,

and once you know how to do it you will wonder

how you ever got through life without it!

Your pink bubble looks exactly the way you

think a pink bubble should: glossy, soft and round,

flowing, opalescent and clear, you get the idea.

Put yourself right inside your pink bubble

and look around, letting it expand and change

as you take in all of its’ aspects of light and shape.

Now float around in there feeling the sweet

comfort and ease of being surrounded by

this ever encompassing and perfect embrace.

The pink bubble will be your friend and ally

in many situations where you need absolute clarity:

walking, speaking, driving, and especially listening!

Get to know your pink bubble intimately,

visualizing exactly how it feels and functions

and calling it to yourself whenever you want.

Your tasks will get done effortlessly.  People will

open their hearts to you and appreciate your ideas,

all physical and energetic obstructions evaporating.

People around you might notice something different

about you, and you will begin to see shifts in time and

space occur as you fully engage with this technology.

DM Wallace grew up in a large Catholic family in Twin Falls, Idaho, but she has lived in Eugene, Oregon for over 40 years. She has been published in numerous literary journals and one anthology. Her book Lexicon of the Body is being released from Atmosphere Press in October 2022. She has worked as a poetry editor, a film reviewer, an event coordinator and wine sales rep, and is a new member of OPA.


JUDGE Dorothea Lasky is the author of five full-length collections of poetry and one book of prose, the newest of which is Animal (Wave Books). Her work has appeared in POETRY, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, and Boston Review. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in creativity and education from the University of Pennsylvania. She also studied at Harvard University and at Washington University. She has taught poetry at NYU, Wesleyan University, and Bennington College. In 2013 she was a Bagley Wright Fellow in Poetry. Currently she is an Associate Professor of Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where she directs the Poetry concentration in the MFA program, acts as a co-Faculty advisor for Columbia Artist/Teachers (CA/T), and organizes the summer writing program. She lives in New York City. Visit her at

Twitter and Instagram: @dorothealasky

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