2014 Pushcart Nominations

Read our current Pushcart nominations in the 2015 Texas Poetry Calendar and in Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry.

2014 Pushcart nominees Jan Benson, Meg Day, Judy Jensen, Margaree Little, Susan Rooke, and Rebecca A. Spears

2014 Pushcart nominees Jan Benson, Meg Day, Judy Jensen, Margaree Little, Susan Rooke, and Rebecca A. Spears

  • “adobe walls at dusk—” by Jan Benson, published June 2014 in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, Week of September 13–19
  • “Adrift, the body senselessly resists” by Judy Jensen, published June 2014 in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, Week of July 26–August 1
  • “After Some Time Has Passed, But Not Too Much Time” by Margaree Little, published June 2014 in Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry, pages 57–58
  • “Aubade for One Still Uncertain of Being Born” by Meg Day, published June 2014 in Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry, pages 332–333
  • “Like a Cotton Sheet Unfolded with a Snap” by Susan Rooke, published in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, October overview
  • “The Vanishing Point” by Rebecca A. Spears, published June 2014 in the Texas Poetry Calendar 2015, Week of November 22–28

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2013 Pushcart Nominations

Pushcart Prize nominees Patricia Spears Bigelow, Diane Durant, Carolyn Tourney Florek, Claudia D. Hernandez, Ed Madden, and Susan Rooke.

2013 Pushcart Prize nominees Patricia Spears Bigelow, Diane Durant, Carolyn Tourney Florek, Claudia D. Hernandez, Ed Madden, and Susan Rooke

Lesser Nighthawk

Beyond the front porch a small voice rises,
trilling the same note again and again,
not fancy, yet it smooths out the wrinkles of the day
as I stand in the yard, listening
under a bright moon, a few stars
the lesser nighthawk calls out into darkness
with a voice barely stronger than a small frog’s

then far off in the valley of shadows
another, on the same low note, chirring,
back and forth they call, answer, call,
creating a swaying bridge of sound
over the dark chasm as the moon moves on.

Patricia Spears Bigelow

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Phenomenon of the Vortex

Compared to its size, a vortex can transport energy over considerable distances, and its power is often underestimated. I knew the feeling: I was the only girl on the baseball team for years. Before I even reached the plate, the outfield crowded in, certain I was a swing and a miss at best. Coach gave me the sign. Digging my toe deep into red dirt, I laid down the perfect bunt. The path of a coyote across the desert can be marked by a succession of small dust devils. I ran like the wind.

But I’m older now. I know that centripetal force is an inward force, that a dust devil is only a minor whirlwind, that the plural of vortex is vortexes and vortices. And that there are others: hurricanes, neutercanes, tornadoes, whirlpools, waterspouts, cyclones, mesocyclones, drain whirlpools, smoke rings, bubble rings, sunspots, sand pillars, Martian dust devils, steam devils, coal devils, fire devils, leaf devils, snow devils, landspouts, gustnadoes, mountainadoes, and eddies, just to name a few. I know that friction causes loss.

The axis of a tornado is imaginary. I swirled an olive jar full of water, dish soap, and rainbow glitter as rubbish and beheld my own phenomenon.

Diane Durant

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Over Flat Creek Near Round Top, Texas

While the earth breaks the soft horizon
eastward we study how to deserve
what has already been given us.

~ William Stafford, “Love in the Country”

There is something about a creek or small stream
with its slow, reflective water,
pebble- or mud-bottomed,
which holds the sky and turtle as one.

Where duckweed grows into a floating carpet,
it is impossible for us to touch the water.
The steep bank is so tangled with wild rose and fallen trees
it would be foolish to try.

It’s hot, the air still and almost silent except
for the vireo we know by its song.

I love these places, seemingly of no significance,
where the dirt road crosses over Flat Creek.

The vireo scrambles the air in its declaration of home.
The water is lazy. A turtle parts the green surface
and swims into the sky.

Carolyn Tourney Florek

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Ardor de Cuerpo

mis movimientos
repetitivos —

Arrancar hojas,
deshojar pieles,
ahogar la mente.

La sensibilidad
se empaña con cada

La vista pellizcada
se fastidia de tanto ver,
de no ver nada.

La espina quebrantada,
desdoblada se estira

Repetir, Repetir,
sin pensar.

que tiemblan —

Se doblan repetiendo
el rechinante grito
del hueso ardiente.

Claudia D. Hernandez

Translation below:

Ardor of the Body

To resume
my repetitive
movements —

Tear away leaves,
unpeel layers,
drown the mind.

The sensibility blurs
with every
twist and turn.

Compressed sight withers
from constant looking,
without seeing anything.

Split, the deteriorating
spine unfolds,

Tedious, Tedious,
without thinking.

that tremble —

They fold repeating
the screeching shriek
of the ardent bone.

Translation by José Hernández Díaz

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We looked for a body,
though there was nothing

but a brush of gray
down where the bird

slammed the pane,
its ghost traced in gray

dust, wings spread,
an angel. This was proof,

though we remembered, once,
downtown, coming across

a tiny owl at the foot
of the bank tower,

where it fell.

Ed Madden

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Near Year’s End

In these burnt candlewicks
of days, the dry north wind
blows the scent of cold fires.

The bundled sky lets fall
no water. Through the night
hours we huddle, listening.

Coyotes like dark surf
surge through the yard,
babbling of stars and smoke.

Susan Rooke

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2012 Pushcart Nominations

Dante in Texas

After months of drought in Midland,
in the middle of a basin where the sea once tossed
(the sea now vanished, like everything becoming
something else), last night a spat of rain
fell against the plastic skylight in the kitchen—
a sound so long unheard, I thought it caused
by some other element—perhaps the crackle from
an unseen fire. All forms fluctuate through
other forms. Dante fled from Florence,
sentenced to burn alive, burning then in exile
with words. Last night’s rain
could have been a burning language,
summoning the denizens of Midland
through the sphere of fire to stand
under a night sky suddenly blessed
by clouds returning, tears of exile ended.
Summoning us outside to shed our clothes
and shuck our lumpish bodies, veined and
varicose from brisket, beer and barbeque,
chicken-fried steak, more beer.
Though when I ran outside to hear
and feel the pattering music of the spheres,
the night was falling silent
and the streets were already dry.

Stan Crawford

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La Posada

If I don the dress I will be Mary,
Great with child.
My want will be upon me;
Waddle will I a bit,
Swaying from porch to path,
My two selves denied entrance.

Holy and profane I will come to you,
Asking for succor, crying piteously as in olden days.
It is scripted that you remain indoors:
My face will hang in your porch light,
Your feet will approach the door,
You will see, through the peeping hole, my face,
And yet you will back away.

Cars will move down the street where it has rained,
Red and yellow lights reflecting;
They will go quietly like owls in evening,
Their tires invisible and silent in darkness.

My feet will touch the pavement; I will stay earthbound;
But pacing the roads, my body will become complete
Where the pains touch me here, and here:
It will be spirit knocking. I will imagine
Doors that do not close, a car slowing,
A welcoming voice that utters these syllables: Come in.

Cathy Downs

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Winter’s hard, brittle       branch broke as predicted.
Hunters knee-deep in snow       found the fox they had expected.
The usual wren tapped       at the rain barrel’s mirror.
Old choruses drummed the air       up and down the streets.
Joints turned on their spits,       cups brimmed and sloshed.
The candle burned to a swirl of wax       like a robe heaped on the floor.
Sleepers remembered the dark       drawing itself over their heads.
They mumbled a few worn words       without any need for waking.
The North Star, rooftop ice,       rattle and gnaw of wind,
the burrowers nosing closer,       all these fell into place,
as did the blind dog barking,       the fire smothered in the grate,
the kitchen faucet left to drip,       blankets warmed against the stove.
The gelid sap, the unwound clock,       the mute owl keeping watch,
frost attending at the windows   —   these held out for something new.
The stillness near morning,       a nail pulling against a timber.

Monty Jones

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Marlin, Texas

A horse idly munches grass
next to an abandoned parking lot
as I pass business after business

for lease. The road is crumbling
beneath me, but the Ebenezer Baptist Church
has a fresh coat of white paint.

It’s a quiet Sunday in Central Texas,
worshippers nothing but blurred images
behind stained glass. They don’t know

I’ve once again opted for tater tots
instead of God. I like to think
the fabled curative mineral waters

of this once-thriving town
have become the ice in my soda.
Smiling wide, I swear I feel better

as I head back to the highway.
The horse has moved on to some plants
bursting out of the rusted trunk

of an abandoned car. He seems content
to gorge himself all day,
like this soft light mirroring the clouds

in the windshields of the faithful.
They emerge slowly and carry their songs
home, strangely hungry.

Robert Wynne

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2012 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards

Selected by Barbara Ras


On hot days you could find him
down by the river and up a tree,
enjoying its cool. If she stood on tiptoe,
arms stretched skyward and he reached
his hands through the branches,
he could lift her into the leafy treehouse
where they’d be hidden from view.

Too young to work, too old to play,
they’d stare at each other wordlessly
smiling like maniacs, eating green
grapes, a breeze lifting the damp hair
off their foreheads, arousing in them
a restlessness they didn’t yet understand.

That boy is dead now. The tree, too.
Today, by the river, even the wind is still.

Erica Lehrer

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Prayer for a Calf

The summer bubbled fire ants and burdock thorns
and glistened in waves dappled
by the shadows of buzzards.
We watched the stock tank inch down
and preferred to talk about box scores and neighbors’ daughters
over the rainless sermons of weathermen.
We drove ten counties north for good hay,
something free of local briars and baling wire,
our old pickup hemorrhaging gasoline with every mile of road.

When the calf was born,
we managed to muster a feint of optimism,
at least in the comparative cool of morning
over bacon and good thick coffee.
But the mother we knew was over-equipped:
her teats swelled to the size of beer cans,
and the calf could find no way to nurse.

We had seen this with her before:
this cruel genetic curse.
She was a good cow,
but poorly suited for motherhood.
So as the days got on,
we closed our windows at night,
choosing silence over coolness.

Soon, we’d drive the fences and find the thirsty leather remains
and all our eyes would turn stone, like the pasture turned to caliche.
But for days, we offered silent prayers
for a calf to turn snake, unhinge its gentle jaws,
and take in the warm, wet sustenance
we hoped our world could offer.

J. Todd Hawkins

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To walk out in the warm morning,
pick up the paper—the one you know
is full of wars, hunger, slayings—
still, to feel warm grass under bare feet,
see mockingbirds and wrens
that survived both last week’s storm
and the cat next door. To see
that a rose and a blue cornflower
opened over night and that a vagrant
compost squash is blooming under cover
of the legitimate potato patch
is no small thing.

Beverly Voss

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2011 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards

Selected by Cyrus Cassells

Waiting Inland for the Hurricane

In the morning, gray and distant,
there will be coffee and the waves
of a child’s laughter when the images
of inundation give way
to Saturday morning cartoons.
Then, they say, will come the wind, rain.

We will putter nervously, bearing
the uneasy silence of pretended calm
as we hang old sepia family pictures
in the stairway.

Those grim faces from behind decades
of storms and loss will stare
and judge their progeny’s faith.

We will know the places they show
on the news. We will have strolled
their sunny seawalls and tasted their ice creams,
soft like rainbows must be.

We will know it is futile to tie this world together
with chain-link fences and swing sets.

Perhaps we will lose the young oak
we struggled all summer to free of fungus.
Perhaps we will lose more.

But now the house only sleeps
and the wind chime
only whispers the delicate peals
of painful anticipation.

J. Todd Hawkins

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Saturday Market

A man should be planted horizontally,
toes up, eyes toward heaven
with a tombstone at his head
so he remembers when he doesn’t wake
in the morning that his days on earth are done,
his work and land passed to the next generation
who, with luck, will labor as long and scratch
as much from the hardscrabble forty acres
as he did, and with more luck than he had save
enough to send the kids to college so they won’t
have to race the morning sun to the fields
or sweat a bucket of Texas dew before crating
their produce and packing it into the bed
of a rusty pickup parked on the shady side
of the barn all gassed for the race to Austin
in the morning and a booth at the farmers’
market where slickers will sip iced tea
while they squeeze and pinch and sniff
and quibble about prices, each hard-won
bargain another line on the old man’s face,
another scar on the back of his hands.

Dr. Charles A. Stone

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Bacchus in Texas

Bacchus, a terra-cotta mask,
grimaces, gape-mouthed
on the garden wall.
He’s an expatriate under live oaks,
although the sun sets as outrageously here
as it did behind black cypresses
and the raw ocher oven
where he was first fired.

Moss has worked its way into his frown,
has given a cast to one of his eyes,
has split the curl of his lip.
The children watch him warily,
especially when one girl is brave enough
to tease the daddy longlegs
quartered in his throat.
Then, their pulsing communion disturbed,
the critters whisker down his chin.

Bacchus and I rarely converse now
about the old days,
but at the Feast of the Assumption,
Ferragosto, we usually remember
how the heat of a Roman summer
would explode the cones of the umbrella pines,
graveling a dusty piazza with pignoli.
And, last year, when a spider webbed
a monocle over his bad eye,
I took his picture.

Christine Boldt

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2010 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards

Selected by Mark Doty

Late Spring, near Leakey, Texas

This green season comes, in morning’s green
light, the sun dangling small and bright
in a green sky—a flash of fin, sunfish
suspended, cool and luminous in the green
water. Everywhere we look, the past—pawprints
at water’s edge, trees that keep repeating
themselves, small birds playing hide and seek,
cliffs of rock, striated and grained, remnants
of sediment, pressure. The sun rests on a bluff,
beside a cross someone built, a memorial.
Light drifts across the green water.
We cross the stream, dry our feet, pull on
shoes, roll down our jeans. Here, though nothing
is said, there’s a sense of something moving
through us, a sense of water and rock, darkness, light.

Ed Madden

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Flying with the Crows

That first night we roosted to dreams of grain,
And the blackest dropped down his head where we
Huddled as one. It was too cold for rain.

My feathers shivered when they fell, dark coal
Mined from the hole of the year, and hunger
Rotated like a cash crop in my soul.

Ah, but the plums, fixed fast in their sweetness
By the chill! And the thicket where they hung
Not a keen moment’s flapping to the west.

Skins, pulp—a supermarket for the beak,
The savory allure of dull hides
Inviting us to fold dun winter’s speech.

Turn cows on the corn—doughy, sad, and slow. . . .
My appetite rumbles like a taut snare;
My caws are brighter than the drum of snow.

Jerry Bradley

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October Round

Wind comes from the north now
like a clever joke. The stars
repeat themselves and we don’t mind.

Improbably blue days join hands
and stride by, fast and faster, past
the old escarpment, where live oaks

still glow green like brand new
dollar bills. How long we’ve traveled
to arrive just here, as clean

as cats, and kinder. By midday
the gold is raised, the joke
is still on us, and we don’t mind.

Stan Crawford

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2010 Next Generation Indie Award, Karla K. Morton

Indie_Book_WinnerRedefining Beauty, Karla K. Morton’s stunning book of poems from Dos Gatos Press, won the 2010 Next Generation Indie Award in the Women’s Issues category.

Read more about Redefining Beauty »

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2009 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards

Selected by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Slice of Life

Luby’s    a Texas woman     my age     farm background
    chemical plant background     maybe     Beauty Shop hair
       gay son     dressed younger than his years
          dark skies     rainy afternoon     another norther     incoming
  cozy     in the cones of light     over the plates of     anything
    took your fancy     in the serving line.     This is what’s nice
       about a forty-year-old boy     no commitments     Sundays     not
  what she once expected     but more attention     than some get.
Snippet by snippet life goes on     over recorded music.
    Palm trees     grackles     out the big tinted windows
       back in the lot     the whole day     will seem brighter
          for a minute     nice surprise     a little one     but take it.
He drives her home.     He drives him home.     One by one     me too
    we let ourselves     into dark houses     full of mirrors.

John Gorman

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Crossing the Lake Houston Bridge

I notice something odd. To my left,
the lake is a drab olive green, the water churning,

metallic blue clouds and rain over Beaver Run,
where Mama and Daddy used to live.

But, to my right, blue sky and calm waters. And
I drive between these two extremes,

so close to that dividing line, trying to make it
home before the rain drifts further south. Then,

as if part of something I’ve long forgotten, a snowy
egret appears overhead, coasts like a paperboy

on a bike, resting tired legs. It glides from the dark
into the calm so gracefully, flaps its wings

to begin again. I think, what a perfect word for that
movement, gracefully, and pray to be carried

home on the wings of those three syllables. To be
lifted when I fall. To be lifted again.

Mary Agnes Dalrymple

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The Ripe and the Unripe Fruit

The unripe can’t understand what it feels like to be ready.

In the season of sweet melon and cantaloupe,
The grapes cannot know their own luscious ripeness,
The heavy readiness to let go of the vine.

The green wheat, just beginning to sprout,
Like some poor child, all vanity and ego,
Thinks it wants to be young forever.

When pistachios crackle open
By moonlight, they are joyfully sighing,
Why did we not know?

Chris Ellery

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2008 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards

Selected by Kathleen Peirce

Blind Lemon Jefferson’s Body Is Brought from Chicago
to Wortham, Texas, by Pianist and Labelmate Will Ezell

New Year’s Day, 1930

No car, no chauffeur. Two ashen horses
nicker wet and close through the storm’s static,
each hoof strikes a nail in the coffin’s lid.
It’s not the blizzard’s ardor stayed church bells:
it’s the weight of unmoored boys underground.
Stayed, the heart—in fields opening wide between beats—
sinks below the rhythmic counterpoints
of abundant drought and scant harvest.
Stayed, the mind—under the years’ chorded streams—
revisits bright, bright green seedlings strumming
in warming furrows, the feracious Texas soil
turning itself inside out, steaming, to receive.

Judy Jensen

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Midday, Midsummer

All morning the wind
blew rain out of the black
trees now a weave of sun
waves across a wall
of nandina vanishing
like a ball it’s so bright
cicadas start winding up
their missionary pitch
a quick overcast and the
eyes have it a welcome
shade by the pool side
into the shadow of which
the shadow of a tiger
swallowtail lurches
giantly light as a bat.

Kurt Heinzelman

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Early in the Morning, on the Road, near Franklin, Texas

Her skirt clings to her the way fog clings to a flower.
Her legs are curled up, her sleeping face soft like a saint.
Driving for hours a man thinks about how things are measured,
about how coffee always tastes better in small towns.

Her legs are curled up, her sleeping face soft like a saint.
St. Augustine said the eye is attracted to beautiful objects.
Coffee always tastes better in small towns;
the treasures of the destination make us take the trip.

St. Augustine said the eye is attracted to beautiful objects.
The full moon makes her skin glow like a statue.
The treasures en route make us take the trip.
I start out thinking in terms of miles and hours

but the full moon makes her skin translucent like a statue.
Her breathing is as fragrant and sure as moonflowers
and I stop thinking in terms of miles and hours.
She’ll wake up in a little while and touch me with her bare toe.

But for now, her breathing is as fragrant as moonflowers.
Driving for hours a man thinks about what makes things holy.
She’ll wake up in a little while and bless me with her bare toe,
her skirt clinging to her the way fog caresses a flower.

Alan Birkelbach

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2007 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards

Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye

From a Reluctant Shut-in to a Confirmed Recluse

The birds notice first, talking it up among themselves
In dialects of bird talk that differ regionally.
It criss-crossed my mind
Like a flock of fractious grackles
How terribly quiet it would be
If the birds all left suddenly.

In my currently depressed and wingless state,
I could not hope to simulate
Their timeless flight across the sky—
These earthbound words
As close as I can come
To their more exuberant medium.

Joe Blanda

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Not done, should have done, could have
done, would have done, might could
have (if you live in Texas)—was that
what the woman walking a block behind me
this morning in crisp sunlight and a leaf-filled
breeze was saying loudly on her miked cell phone?
(I turned for a moment, thinking she spoke to me.)
Or was that the incantation of my
January thoughts on the state of my life
(today, at least), insistent
in its hammering repetition,
in its withering accusations?

Cathy Stern

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And Still She Watches

She watched the sky move toward El Paso
and how the impossible reds relaxed in their going.

She watched bands of small gray birds fly
forward in uneven lines over dim rooftops

without looking back, without asking.
She watched her own shadow standing, the shape

of what remained, expand to three dimensions
until the air hardened around her and she hardened.

She watched until the black heaven, the absorption
of all color, began to fray at its tentative horizon,

starting it all again and she went in to start the coffee.
She watches hours for days and collects her nights

in pieces like a woman who watches for morning
and loses one night at a time.

Allison Smythe

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2006 Texas Poetry Calendar Awards

Selected by Robert McDowell

Passenger Station, Texas

It keeps its memories of Texas swing,
excited children on their way to far-off
Dallas, trainloads of soldiers leaving home
or coming back at the end of World War II.
Forlorn, its windows vibrate only to
the passing freights; its rooms lie empty
save for now and then a boy or two
            entering on some dare.
Never having seen a huge black engine
full of noise and heat and steam
that made more timid kids run back
to their fathers’ sides, they have no
frame of reference to make the place
more than just some dusty wooden
furnishings or secret haunt of creatures
            of the night.
But then, imagination has a way
of making history seem real.
So on a quiet day, if you listen carefully,
you’ll hear the engine up the track,
and if you watch with eyes that still believe
you’ll see the train come lumbering past,
filled with people smiling wide. They’re
going home, you know, while the rest
of us will have to wait awhile
there beside the track, shaded by
the station at the city’s downtown edge.

Ralph Hausser

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In early winter on a Texas day,
I turn the corner on my way back home
from anywhere, and pansies greet me
with persistent bloom.

When I was young, I cherished
snowfall and the way our street lamp
caught like shutter frame the
glistening ice on frozen bough,
the drift of powder white.

I could be longing for those icy days,
but as the velvet pansies dress the walk,
they dance while breezes chase
my cares into their show
of purple flight.

Sharon E. Young

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Summer in Texas

We swam all day,
all summer long.

Swam till our eyes
were as bloodshot
as the town drunk’s,
till our skin wrinkled
like sheets in the laundry basket.

We dove for pennies in
chlorinated water strong enough
to kill polio.
Dunked and splashed
each other till we were limp.

Crawled to the side of the pool
spread our bodies
on the prickly St. Augustine grass,
and tanned our hides.

Robin Cate

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