Spring 2021 Contest Winners, Poet’s Choice Category

Spring 2021 Adult Poetry Contest
Winners of the Poet’s Choice Category (Judge – John Morrison)

First Place: “Everyone Worries Schrodinger’s Cat is Dead or Alive, Yet No One Stops to Ask Its Name” by Brady Pearson

You can measure the speed of light with a microwave and a chocolate bar
though if the time we are given is a finite resource
it seems a better investment to spend it on you.

According to the theory of special relativity,
the faster you move through any spatial dimension relative to a stationary observer,
the slower you appear to move through time.

So when you said you wanted to spend eternity together
it made sense that the first thing you did was run from me as fast as you could.
As long as I’m still, I can keep time from catching you.

And since light moves at the cosmic speed limit
light never ages.
Which means, in light’s perspective, we were never together anyway.

Subjective fact: Gravity pulls on all of us, at all times, from all directions. Every heartbeat pumps
against a cosmic war of tidal forces.

Objective fact: I can float whenever I’m around you.

Poet’s Bio: Brady is an aspiring artist living in Portland has a passion for subjects starting with p—philosophy, physics, painting, poetry, and music.

Second Place: “Certain Light” by Nancy Christopherson

Later it was all I could think of—

My skin turned translucent, there were particles
of light attached to each blood cell
between marrows and they danced as they
flowed—rivers bouncing off
boulders and splashing up into the morning’s sunshine.

I distinctly heard the roaring of rapids farther
in. There were armies of sequined fish
jumping high and fanning their tails. Geishas
shyly bowing then smiling in kimonos.

After, when the raft drifted,
my arm hung lazily overboard swishing in
eddies, and the sweet-fleshed fish nibbled my fingertips.

Bright feathers began to appear, singly at first, riffling
past, undone by drake mallards, preening, unseen,
that emerald sheen nearly blinding the water.

I tried to seine some, to reach into that wing—
to bob-loft and then to fly off—kicking hard
with my feet at the surface—

The feathers
transformed back into starlight—a mystical
split via prism or liquid—back into green and green and
green, until it was red again and flowed
through my veins, pulsing my temples. I nearly
drowned from the brightness.

Poet’s Bio: Nancy Christopherson’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Aji Magazine, Helen Literary Magazine, Peregrine Journal, Raven Chronicles, Third Wednesday, Verseweavers and Xanadu, among others, as well as various regional, national and international anthologies. Author of The Leaf, she lives and writes in eastern Oregon. Visit www.nancychristophersonpoetry.com.

Third Place: “Twenty Grace Notes for Barry Lopez” by Joanna Rose

1 I missed you at Brian Doyle’s memorial service last night.
2 Your own health, someone said: fragile.
3 Canyon Wren / catherpes mexicanus / Song: a cascading series of clear whistled notes, decelerating in tempo. (Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Region)
4 Your field notes are a guide for my life, and I keep giving them away.
5 One friend said this: If we are lucky we come to define ourselves in the terms of a story we love.
6 Any pattern of knowing will stubbornly seek a narrative arc.
7 I stepped on the toe of your cowboy boot with the toe of my cowboy boot when I kissed your cheek in the open door of the bookstore. It was one of those sunny cold winter days.
8 There is an uncompromised singularity in any joy, even when the word fragile makes me fragile.
9 I can hear your voice.
10 The tweed of your jacket held the smell of dust and cigarettes.
11 I have known you long enough to see your hair grow white.
12 The pause of your thoughts gathering was not tweed but paisley.
13 I never told you about losing my bluejean jacket in Blue River Oregon in 1979 even though it seemed like an important connection. (I left it in the back of a pick up truck that had picked me up hitchhiking and then let me out at the historic covered bridge, which is where I was headed that day.)
14 I am trying to find a way to describe ‘thank you’.
15 I will do this as my own hair grows white.
16 Thanking you is thanking every good thing.
17 I hitchhiked here from the Blue River Valley in Colorado where I didn’t know the canyon wren. (I spent the hours waiting for rides or warming up in truck stops embroidering a bluebird on the sleeve of my bluejean jacket.)
18 What I don’t know yet, still, is the canyon wren; my own stubborn narrative arc.
19 The quiet song of the red-breasted nuthatch is barely discernible among the conifer sounds of the Pacific Northwest forest, while canyon wren song trills from pinyoned talus slopes of the desert southwest. (Why Birds Sing: A Journey into the Mystery of Birdsong, David Rothenberg)
20 What I can’t imagine is the work of my life without the work of your life.

Poet’s Bio: Joanna Rose is the author of the award-winning novel Little Miss Strange (Winner Pacific Northwest Booksellers Prize, finalist Oregon Book Award.) Other work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Windfall Journal, Cloudbank, Artisan Journal, Northern Lights, Oregon Humanities, High Desert Journal, VoiceCatcher, Calyx, Cream City Review, and Bellingham Review, among others. Her essay “That Thing With Feathers” was cited as Notable in 2015 Best American Essays. She is an Attic Atheneum Fellow in Poetry, and has cohosted the Portland critique group Pinewood Table for 20 over years. She works with youth through OR Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools and with Young Musicians & Artists. Her new novel, A Small Crowd of Strangers, is due out in Fall 2020.

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