Poetry contest ends with scads of submissions, two winners

OMC is thrilled with the response to the First Annual Milwaukee Poetry Contest. We received more than 70 submissions, all of which captured a different aspect of life in Milwaukee. The level of talent in this city is phenomenal, and with so many fantastic pieces, it was truly a task to choose the best.

After much deliberating, we finally chose Eva Alice Counsell's poem, "Wait," for First Place, Jessica Zierten's poem, "Rummage Sales," for Second Place, and Erich Ebert's piece, "A Translation for Lisa Mahan," as a strong Runner Up.

Next week, OMC will publish bios of the winning writers.

Thanks to the judges for their time, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and "The Writer" magazine for sponsorship. Special thanks to everyone who submitted, and we look forward to seeing more of your work again next year!


By Eva Alice Counsell

Do not be distracted
in those early hours
when disheartened dogwalkers
linger at Atwater for some
assurance of sunrise,
their dogs hanging back
to the choking point
from their ice-pawed futures,
or by the thinning joggers
who strap on their reflective vests
and mark the streets
like so many danger signs.
Do not be deceived by the coloring
of fall, by the burrish coneflower
stripped of all its slender lavender
or the unlashed stare of a black-eyed susan.
You may miss those stalwarts,
those final gestures of summer
like the woman who boards
the rainy-day Wisconsin Avenue bus
as though she's arrived at a picnic,
dark sunglasses protecting
her glamour eyes from the brilliant garden
of her gown, or the freshman bombshell
still slinking by in strappy sandals
and her best belly-baring tee,
in defiance of ugly.
Do not overlook the last of the Hogs
and their riders, still revealing skin windows
of tattooed love where the seams
of their leathers kiss, or the last sailboats
uncocooned in their slips,
ready to butterfly onto the lake
as if it were the first cloudless sky
of June. If we are watchful
we can glimpse one more summer
before the darkening hours sleep us
into autumn's slowing,
into the white that awaits.

Milwaukee Rummage Sales

By Jessica Zierten

Bradford Street:
A crumbling cookie of a mansion.
Hot pink Audubon flamingoes
on a Northwest Mutual calendar, 1956.
Comely wigs on hard foam heads,
faces drawn in ball-point pen.
Clandestine staircase
to fourth floor pink painted chambers,
A sick room, from the smell.

I buy so many books, mildewed and alive.
A wall-mounted rapier, telegrams from a war.
In a box behind a three-storied organ,
Dozens of 1950's girl's magazines.

"Doctors Ned Spunk"
"Can a Girl Learn to be Popular?"
"Advice from a Model"
"He'll Like What You Make"

Eighty-first Avenue:
Someone has been smoking a cigarette in the master bathroom.
Oven cleaner, air fresheners, the hottest coffee.
In the cellar, Hebrew textbooks obscure
hoary beautician's tools.
The nail polish has separated,
the lipstick is leather.

Salt shakers, Bundt pans, Jewish cookbooks.
Men's starched shirts, Vegas ashtrays.
I am certain that no one has died, just moving out.
I collect people's guts at yard sales.

Humboldt Boulevard:
A fancy hand-made sign on a busy corner,
well-placed for both ways to see.
A "multi-family", idyllic fund-raisers are they.
This vase contains one penny and a life.

Some kid is selling lemonade.
The father's cup mixed with Stoli.
An occasional treasure unearthed.
A glass washing board
A clean posable mannequin
Old French sheet music

A television is carried to the porch.
It is such a sunny day; the game is on.
Be quiet, the game is on.

A Translation for Lisa Mahan

By Erich Ebert

A gate existing.
keeping in or out,
of this hadn't or this couldn't
or of them were both needed.

The fence held up
the photographs of your mother
with a martini. The shape of the glass
was a wand of hair, waved from a distance.

The fence said, only dream
can awake this sadness.

The heart answered, the scent of tomorrow whispers
another time.

Your mother told the Oak to bundle itself
in cords and lay neatly against a shed.
The Oak felled its own limbs, and quietly
told the shed a story full of power lines.

The fence said, the other
side of the heart looks greener.

The heart answered, walk the streets
of Milwaukee til I am found.

We wonder where
your mother has kept a cup of flour.
We have sent a neighbor
lady to retrieve it.

The fence said, almost certainly
and possibly never again.

The heart answered, I was borrowed
and never returned.

Your mother sent a communique
in the form of young girls
turning into lightning bugs.
She said a glow might attract a heart.

The fence said, only the mattress
knew our ears were listening.

The heart answered, a touch contiues
its tender knocking at the door.

We found your mother
selling bananas to secret
places. The secret places had names to kiss.
The names were always forgotten.

The fence said, look what I've
kept out all these years.

The heart answered, I don't mind the rain,
so long as it is crying.

Your mother brought large baskets
of milkweed pods. The pods exploded in
late August. Her own laughter blew
all the seeds away.

The fence said, what passes through
is a dream catcher longing to let go.

The heart answered, when you leave this Coast
erosion will shore itself up.

Your mother held tightly a boy from Ghana.
A conch shell approached them both.
They put their ears to the shell and heard
the hushing of porcelain against lonely skin.

The fence said, lovers crawl
over me without leaving fingerprints.

The heart answered, the hands of last year are
around me now.

Your mother finished her martini in Spanish.
The photographer gave the negatives to her life back.
The negatives contained a touch between two words.
The two words could not speak clearly.

The fence said, a message of longing has the distance
of rain in it.

The heart answered, this is the secret motion of love: a wave goodbye
could ruin us for years.

A gate preventing.
of which side wasn't and which side isn't,
or what was in or what was out,
all the magic could not tell.



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