Thursday, April 30, 2015

First-Place Winner: "Soul Mate" by Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna Wilkerson has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from University of Aberdeen. Her first poetry collection, Odd Remains, was released in 2013. Currently Ginna is making a transition from poetry to prose, working on mixed media art, and looking forward to residencies in Canada and Finland in 2015. Her work can be seen on her website at

Soul Mate
by Ginna Wilkerson

She lives
underneath my closed eyelids,
in the bones of my fingers,
the curve of my elbow
and the soles of my feet.

She is five years old and thirteen,
seventeen and twenty-five,
thirty-three and forty-seven.

She knows why I named my doll Fingernail;
why I cried most days in eighth grade.
Why I thought  - for a week or a month -
that I wanted to marry a drummer
instead of going away to college.
She remembers how
I refused to leave the town I said I hated,
and move to the city
to dance on Broadway.
She still feels the agony of childbirth
and the complicated joy of motherhood.

She was in that pub
when I met a spell-weaving woman
who almost wrecked my world,
and she watched
as the love of my life
walked through a restaurant door
and into my world -
in that same hated small town.

I took Her with me when I fell in love,
moved on, and found satisfaction in living.

When I die,
she is the one who will rest in peace, 
soar away into spirit, 
and meld with the fabric of the universe. 

Second-Place Winner: "Midsummer Meditation" by David Allen Sullivan

David Allen Sullivan’s first book, Strong-Armed Angels, was published by Hummingbird Press, and three of its poems were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a multi-voiced manuscript about the war in Iraq, was published by Tebot Bach. A book of translation from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet was published in 2013, and Black Ice, about his father’s dementia and death, is forthcoming from Turning Point. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his love, the historian Cherie Barkey, and their two children, Jules and Mina Barivan. He was awarded a Fulbright, and taught in China for one year ( His poems and books can be found at

Midsummer Meditation  
by David Allen Sullivan

Make of yourself a gourd.
Dry yourself of all desires.
Let the few true thoughts
inside you rattle in the hollow
chamber. Let that music be
what sustains you. And when
you, at last, split open, let
the seeds fly. Perhaps a few
will even catch fire in fertile
ground and fly again. Sun-
baked, nuzzled by the rains,
touched by creature mouth
or kind hands. We don’t know
what we’re doing. Might as well
let go of our hard grasping.
Sun doesn’t judge your worth.
So why do you deem yourself
less than anything under it?

Third-Place Winner: "Eyes Closed" by Jeanie Greensfelder

Jeanie Greensfelder, a psychologist and poet, is author of Biting the Apple, Penciled In, 2012, and Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith, Penciled In, 2015. She’s had a poem published on Writer’s Almanac and in American Life in Poetry. Her poems are in forthcoming anthologies: Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems, Paris, and 30 Years of the San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival; in journals: Askew, Miramar, Orbis, Echoes, Grand, Kaleidoscope, Porter Gulch Review, Poetic Medicine Journal, Riptide, Falling Star, and If&When. She lives in San Luis Obispo, California. Her poems can be read at

Eyes Closed
by Jeanie Greensfelder

I visit a meditation group to learn 
what lures them here. Some sit 
on mats, others on chairs. A bell rings.

Silence begins. Inhale, exhale. I try
to quiet my thoughts: I’m hungry, restless 
and give in to my urge to peek:

I see faces with masks removed.
I’ve trespassed into the vulnerability 
hidden by open eyes.

Yesterday in the checkout aisle, a mother, 
carrying her infant, shared his sleeping face:
innocence, guilelessness—our paradise lost.

And here, for this half hour, people come,
sit, and enter that state. Now I’m hungry
to join them. I shut my eyes.

2015 Fourth-Place Winner: "Spook Distance" by Temple Cone

Temple Cone is the author of three books of poetry: That Singing, The Broken Meadow, and No Loneliness. A professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, he lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

Spook Distance
by Temple Cone


Wintering ducks
scatter from waters below the seawall
when I run by,
            spooking, spooked.

So have you, Lord, fled my very presence.


Ten miles a day, fifteen—
I run so I won’t need bourbon,
fatigue a lighthouse
guiding me
through rough waves. 
Hell is
when I cannot tire myself enough
and must go to bed
sore, drunk,
and waiting for the light.


No, hell is more
like an equation
you study so closely
it seeps into your marrow,
except in the case of hell
it’s not the quadratic you’re learning,
but how you truly are
a sonofabitch,
how, if sonofabitches like yourself
were desirable
commodities, like copper or wheat,
and there were a market
to dealing in them,
with brokers, a stock exchange,
and daily market reports,
you’d have it cornered.


Samuel Beckett
says only one

of the crucified thieves
was saved. Maybe I

ought to stop
reading Beckett.


you who can,
as through a veil
of pine woods
and drifting snow,
find the me that is me,
when will you begin
to (gentle
as wind’s breath
or the light
of dead stars) have mercy
for the guilty,
for the broken-hearted?


When every blade offers
a window onto the sunset,
a friend invites me
to stay in NYC
as long as needed.
When the bus lurches forth,
a black highway
stretching behind,
my only company is an iPod
full of Te Deums and Magnificats.
And when I scroll through
the playlists,
the ticking in my earbuds
is worrisome as a bad heart.


On the subway,
I hear a battered man
from the effort
to hold his madness close:
Everyone, I am
fallen hard
and could use any comfort
you might spare.
          Like the rest,
I turn my eyes away, thinking
how vile I am
for the little I’ve done
to help lives not my own,
a thought that consoles
because it asks me
to do nothing at all.


E.M. Cioran says
every book is a suicide
       Yeah, maybe
I ought to stop
reading Cioran, too.


At the Cloisters,
on a stone wall, a torso
of Christ curves at the hip
like a bow,
the unseen arrow
lodged in my heart.
Even if I could disavow,
Lord, my love
of beauty,
sacrifice it unto you,
I could not help
but see the lovely brow,
the face more present
for being lost.


Dawn, leaving
the third-floor walk-up,
I meet a slate-and-white pigeon
on the street
         who flutters
a little beyond me,
but doesn’t fly away.


Finally, I stand
beneath El Greco’s vision
of the opening of the Fifth Seal.
St. John reaches to heaven,
his body a candle flame
trembling in the wind.

The skin of the risen
is bruised with shadow
and flashes of white,
as if lightning had just struck close by
and by some miracle
not harmed a soul.


There are two distances
between us—
a closeness whence you fly from me
and a vastness
wherein you remain.
In the interstice between

dances an angel.

Spirit First Poetry Contest 2015

Our 6th annual Spirit First poetry contest received an amazing 2,097 poems—a record-breaking year for us! Poems came in from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 44 foreign countries (the missing U.S. state was Hawaii). 

Poems from outside the U.S. arrived from Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, Cook Islands, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Lagos, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Mauritius, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tunisia, UAE/Abudhabi, UAE/Dubai, and Ukraine. The foreign nation with the most entries was India, with nearly 100 poems entered. The American state with the most entries was California with 175 poems, followed by New York and then New Jersey. We received 300 poems without information on physical location (city/state/country).

Thank you to all who participated—we appreciate every poet, every poem. Your writing on the themes of meditation and mindfulness is important to the world, and what a great work it was to select winners from so many beautiful words. Very special thanks to our team of judges and all your efforts to select the winners.