By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Oct 24, 2006 at 5:15 AM received scads of submissions for the Fifth Annual Milwaukee Poetry Contest, but two pieces stood out from the rest. Louisa Loveridge-Gallas’ poem, “The Estate of Grace,” received first place, and Catherine Averill’s “Milwaukee: The Leaving” took second.

Gallas originally wrote the poem about Milwaukee’s Jazz Estate in 1996 after the now-deceased saxophonist Spike Robinson came to town.  It’s one of many pieces that she has written about Milwaukee.

“I have written ‘Cream City’ poems about the full moon over Clarke Street, the reservoir at North Avenue as spring came on, and life west of the river where I loved and lived for years,” says Gallas, who today lives on the East Side with her husband, Richard Gallas.

“I want to express gratitude to my husband of 25 years for expanding our marriage to make room for the muse who demands time and attention,” she says.

Gallas has been published in various small presses, journals and anthologies, and was among the winners in 2003’s Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters annual poetry contest. She has been a featured poet many times over in Chicago and Milwaukee, and participated in the Wisconsin Arts Board Artist-in-Residence and Education Program.

She is also one of Milwaukee’s “earth poets” -- a group of environmentally conscious writers who have performed together for almost 20 years -- and a counselor in the alternative field of body-mind integration.

“It’s a great field for a poet because people’s experiences constantly call forth similes, myths and metaphors to get at the nuances of life,” says Gallas.

"The Estate of Grace" by Louisa Loveridge-Gallas
                The night is breathing hard
         as a love poem longing to happen
            deep inside the nightclub light
        O, yes, the Estate brings you this gift,
            jazz world-class--count on it,
                right here in Cream City,
       his name’s Spike Robinson and right now
             Spike's tenor is heavy fog
            smokin’ through curved brass--
   Mercy!  Mercy has brought some heat to this cold blighted world
   where the sun has covered its face.  Dusky glass over cool Miles
Davis' photo on the back wall catches Spike's profile--do you see how
the breath beats in his temple as he blows?  "Either it's love or it isn't"
is the tune.
Spike is reaching for that long creamy high note before he takes the
                        solo home,
    the drummer clicks along behind him like a train heading for the
                    Can you feel it?
         Then Spike hangs his tenor on his shoulder
                  while the man at the piano
                    takes over the solo track.
             Spike reaches, yes, reaches this time
 for his cigarette that's been waiting for him burning for him next to his
                       luke warm beer,
                       takes a long drag,
                his horn sways on his shoulder
       a languorous snake charmed by the piano man
        who is working his way around the changes.
  The night starts to cook -- Spike Robinson is smokin'! 

                All there is…is the music.

       Just now you forget that outside this room
          half the world is crawling on its knees
     you leave behind your troubles, your losses
         you check the blood streaming down
            the face of the earth at the door.
              You forget that cigarettes kill.
          You lean over to the guy next to you
     who has just let a riff perfect and smooth
          bring an "O, yeah" deep out of him,
     you say, "Hey, Dick, could I bum a cigarette--make it two
He gives you Chesterfields,
                 no filters, and you don't even smoke
             except tonight you're smokin' with Spike
  and you give the other to the someone beside you who's your beloved
                dearly, your turbulent other,
         your significant nobody or maybe, simply,
   your own true self who earlier you were lost with in the homey
                 mundane JUST EVERYDAY ANY NIGHT
                                  and this morning, hey,
                     didn't you run out of toilet paper
             and tonight you snatched dinner together
                                so fast it was illegal
                     like stealing lipstick from dimestores
                     and wham the 10,000th dinner hour
             or dinner moment you shared together was over
                             and, tell the truth now,
                didn't the cold night measure ahead of you like
a school kid's ruler--12 exact familiar inches tunneling into the future
with its steady little arithmetic toward the10 o'clock news, except
some fine soul across town calls suddenly:  "Do you know Spike
Robinson is playing 'The Estate' tonight?"
and the door to Heaven
                                    swings open.

                                 You look up.
              You look at each other with that look
                    that was in your first look,
                           the look that binds,
         the recognition that God has just walked in
                             on eighth notes
                          and the winter night
                 which wore such plain clothes,
                     garments so tried and true
         the night is indeed still young, so here you are,
 in the nightclub delight, you hand over that Chesterfield to your
                            lover, who flicks you a light,
                    you fire up those stolen moments,
                 the forbidden smoke slides into the soul
                     of your lungs who forgive you instantly
               "You won't see me cryin' anymore"
                                          is the nice old tune
                                     Spike Robinson is smokin'!
                        Such sweet moments,
                     you don't watch your back.
         Nothing is happening anywhere else in the world.  You are in the
Estate of grace.   And when all the tunes come home, the wee small
                                        hours are over
                    you will go back through that door
                       back out to the city of confusion
                        your pulse is high, a praise song,
             you walk out right into the paralyzed eyes
                             of the wounded world
                    raise up your hands and testify: 
        "Get up, get up, RISE ... Life is a wind instrument,
                     SO STAND UP AND BLOW."    

Catherine Averill wrote her winning poem called “Milwaukee: the Lasting” for her best friend who is living in The Netherlands.

“I tend to write about scenes and relationships,” she says. “I imagine a story or a situation and write about it, so the setting is usually less specific than in this poem.”

Averill, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was published in UWM’s Furrow magazine earlier this year. She says she owes her love for poetry to her high school English teacher, Dave Dentinger, who teaches at Pius XI High School.

“I think my generation needs a voice they can relate to. Jeffrey McDaniels and Christopher Kennedy are poets who everyone should be reading,” says Averill.

"Milwaukee: The Leaving" by Catherine Averill

The Netherlands don't mean
much of anything to me.
I'm not certain if I mentioned my intention
to, upon your return,
plant a garden of tulips in September.

Come spring we can smoke Cohibas in the rain
and place all our faith in weathermen.
And when the clouds
clear an unforeseeable path for brightness
we can picnic on an empty plot in the cemetery
and drink expensive Cabernet from abroad.

We will listen to Bizet in the Washington Heights
and turn the bass up all the way.
You will dress trendier than I remember
and I'll wear a warm-weather sweater
emblematic of where we've been, no
where we want to be.

On the marina by the lake
I'll accept the love you found abroad
with an American who didn't mind either way
and keep to myself the opinion that you weren't changed
as much by the leaving as the return.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.