2015 Pen Women Poetry Contest Winners

Group 5   2015 Poetry Winners

1st Place

Girl in the Hallway

Nancy Avery Dafoe

For a moment, we were walking in a straight line,

as if in cadence: girlhood to maturity.

I deliberately slow my gait, not in pursuit;

I see pretty girls every day and scarcely notice,

trying instead to coax them into learning,

caught up in complexities, sometimes pitying

teen angst and spectacles enacted, entirely unaware

of epiphany that awaits not student but teacher.

Like Keats’ Cold Pastoral, a scene across

intervals of time and generations, the woman

clever enough for allusions and pretensions,

self-reflexively, self-consciously indulgent:

romance out of academia and “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

Then without warning, this shock: the self

metaphorically and literally heavier with age,

a curse not fine wine, softened in a sallowing.

But on this last day of school, I see her: this impossibility

of elusive beauty and truth just beyond reach.

Group 5

2nd Place

Government Worker, 1966

Kathleen Kramer

I forget his name—the man in my office

at NSA.  A quiet, colorless man who

shyly admired the green of my dress.

The next day he brought a book.

It needed two hands to hold and was

full of pages of Wyeth paintings—

Grasses, old wood… How I loved

the dryness! All juices removed by sun,

wind, and time. Green gone peaceful.

Quiet.  No longer longing.

That day, the colorless man saw my longing

and with one quick move, tore a page

from his costly book, placed it in my hand.

Weatherside.  I rolled it loosely, took it home

to my little flat where red bricks held the wet

DC heat, where windows looked out on concrete.

Group 5

3rd Place

Some of Our Parts

Gloria Heffernan

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I believe in Frida Kahlo’s moustache

Eleanor Roosevelt’s buck teeth

Maya Angelou’s creased forehead

Angelina Jolie’s severed breasts.

I believe in the small round wart

nested in the crease between my mother’s

nose and left cheek,

I believe in my sister’s thinning hair,

my best friend’s gapped teeth,

my stretch marks and thick waist.

I believe that some of our parts

are no match for the sum of our parts

and I believe

the sum of our parts is holy indeed.

Group 5

Honorable Mention

Selling Camp

Cindy Ostuni

I painted you Dad, on my senses

and remembered your love for this place

in water lapping against the shore

in the flag slapping the wind, in whirring Hummingbird wings

I gazed at towering green branches

as if your eyes dwelled behind mine

I took it all in

through this manufactured connection borne of longing and memory

as if you too were loving it

But when I went into the poll-barn

nothing had prepared me for the smell of burnt tobacco still left in your pipe

the aroma of sweet sawdust pure in your wood shop

As if you really had defied death and kept living

here among your tools

I had not known it in my body, not in this way

But it was clear in the half- turned wooden chalice still standing on your lathe

in jelly jars of screws and nail-filled parmesan cheese containers

that your ideas, still ripe, are mid-conversation

and dismantling it all, readying it for new people

feels like grief, take 2

Group 5

Honorable Mention

 Fragile Now

 Linda Boyden

She is fragile now, slipping into coma

letting go of toothpaste and soap

bargain sales and flat tires

squabbling children

lust and revenge

speech and sight

the petty and the pretty

the sacred and the profane.

She is fragile now, adrift in coma

breathing in, breathing out

systems shutting down, one by one

releasing the ribbons that moored her

to this plane, this false realm of being,

this hospital bed, this husk of a body.

Group 5

Honorable Mention


Benita Rogers

five black ravens

in a bare-branched tree

silhouetted against

a gunmetal sky

unsettling both mood

and memory

haunting the mind

while pleasing the eye

Group 5

Honorable Mention

The Question

By Lindsey Bellosa

When my son asked me about death, I said: we are all afraid

and: we don’t know and, finally:  perhaps there is an angel

inside of us that flies out, shiny with wings.  And hands?

Yes, hands. Everything we have, and also wings.

And they fly in the sky? And then they go home?

No.  They can’t go home again…

And then his eyes wobbled, and lips braced—

but I don’t want to die and suddenly the world was not eternal

anymore.  How my heart clenched around itself—

a meaningless sea, offering vague angels.  Time, the only

gift,  lay between us: unwrapped and unsure.

But there was something sweeter about the room

after that: how he stacked up his Lincoln logs with more care,

and kissed my face and drew a picture of his now-dead

great grandfather, smiling, with his own mama who was also

very, very old.

Group 5

Honorable Mention

Where, then?

Kathleen Kramer

With dread, I look toward the day I can

no longer drive. Oh, I know someone

can take me to the store. And Gadabout

will come to my door and deliver me

to my doctor or dentist.  But no more

nosing my car into a worn track in the woods

where, safe from rain, I can study brambles

and branches, tease words from the tangle

and scratch them onto a pad of paper

resting on the steering wheel.

No longer will I park near hydrangea bushes

at the cemetery and read Flannery O’Connor’s

Prayer Journal, lift my eyes from time to time

and gaze at gravestones, stealing their silence

as the backdrop for my own prayer.

Never again will I sit alone at the harbor

where gulls carry light on their backs.

And boats resting at anchor sway their masts

like metronomes, ticking away the moments

of solitude into which God speaks.

Group 3

1st Place


Katie Sherrin

We cry.

Not because we are weak,

But because we have been strong for too long.

We sing.

Not because we are musicians,

But because we want to be free.

We dance.

Not because we are ballerinas,

But because we cannot fly.

We laugh.

Not because we are happy,

But because it hurts us too badly to cry.

We die.

Not because we are old,

But because we feel it is impossible to stay alive.

Group 3

2nd Place


Lajencia Brown

A Plane that doesn’t Fly, A Year without July, A Stream

which became Dry. A Match without Fire, A Circuit

without the Wire, A Car without a Tire. Shoes without

Laces, A Sentence without Spaces, A Nerd without

Braces. A Phone without a Dial, A Face without a Smile, A

Clock without a While. Socks without feet, Fire without

Heat, A Heart missing its Beat………

Group 3

3rd Place


Lily Allen

I often think, of things that trouble me.

I often think, of why this could be.

Of bullies, the words that they say,

The jokes that they play.

I often ask, why me?

What have I done? Why am I the one?

I often think, of those who are like me.

Those who cry the tears of the rejected,

The tears of the lost.

I often think, what is the point?

Why am I here? Why must I live in fear?

But now, I often realize,

Of how I can stand tall, just like a brick wall.

I am better. I am stronger.

Stronger than they will ever be.

And now I see, that I am me.

And I am great. I am good.

I have proved more than they ever could.

Before, I wanted to escape, to run away and pout.

Now I often think, I am proud to be me, inside and out.

Group 3

Honorable Mention


Maddy King

Her words like a volcano.

Keep pouring out,

never ending.

Burning words

like jalapenos.

Big or small.

Weak or strong.

Burns them all.

Then it stopped.

No lava left

to hurt anyone.

No lava left in this mouth of a volcano.

Group 3

Honorable Mention

End of Counterpoint

Katherine Martellock

Autumn’s cold is like a scythe,

It rat-a-tats on your window,

For fear of the wind’s blow,

Brings sickness and pain as sharp as a knife,

With the taste of blood, treats, and malice,

On the blade,

As cold as ice.

Winters cold is warmer still,

Carrying man’s good will,

Warmer than the seasons past,

Making all the memories last,

Of the silent joy and laughter,

Kept inside,

Forever after.

 Group 3

Honorable Mention

The Holiday

Lexi Emmi

Finally it’s almost here

Time for all the love and cheer

No, not Santa on his sleigh

No celebrating New Year’s Day

It’s not about a ghost or mask

Trick or treat you do not ask

No presents, no candles on a cake

No bunnies or eggs for goodness sake!

It’s not about turkey, stuffing or pie

You’ll see no fireworks in the sky

It’s not about your mom or dad

But there’s no reason to be sadThere will be

candy and a card

So by now it should not be hard

To figure out by this line

Will you be my Valentine!

Group 3

Honorable Mention


Emma Brewster

Light filters through the canopy.

Soon the air is filled with the gentle hum of life,

that will turn into a roar of existence.

Every meal symbolizes the tight twine of life,

binding predator and prey.

The steady swing of life here is the earth’s pulse,

radiating the vibrations of the love God shows.

A day in the jungle is a chance to stand truly in

the circle of life.

Group 1

1st Place

What I Like to Do in Summer

Carmella Fairbanks

The winter is such a bummer

I can’t wait until it’s summer

No more books, school is out

Hotter weather is what it’s all about

In summer we can play outside

Even go for a bike ride

To a camp and on a lake

A nice boat ride we can take

It’s so hot we can swim in a pool

Now we feel nice and cool

At night marshmallows we will roast

Tubing behind the boat is what I like to do the most

Those are things I love to do in summer

This winter has been such a bummer



Dear Pen Women:
We hope to bring back the Friend Award for this, our 60th year of the Contest.  I have agreed to coordinate the nominations, selection and preparation of the actual award.  This Award can serve to both honor deserving individuals and organizations and to promote recruitment of new members.  While “Award” suggests one winning nominee, we have given two awards in the past.
It would be wonderful if we have several nominations.  Please use the attached form so that we can assure transparency and adequate review.     Thanks for
helping to make this a truly commendable award, maybe even prestigious!
Mary Gardner



To honor an individual (or organization) who has creatively, consistently, and collaboratively advanced the cause of art, poetry, or music composition in Central New York, thereby having a significant impact on the quality of life for individuals and groups at organizational, community or regional levels.


The CNY Branch of the NLAPW will be solely responsible for managing the nomination

and selection process for this Award. The frequency of presentation of the Award and determination of the Award category (e.g. poetry, fiction, art, composition) will be at the discretion of the Branch, operating through its Poetry and Art Contest Committee. It will be the responsibility of the Committee, acting together or through a sub-committee, to announce and receive nominations, and, based upon the nominations received, recommend the winning nominee. The Branch will determine the budget allocation available for the award.


The Friend Award Committee will draft appropriate press releases in collaboration with the Contest and/or the Branch Media Chair, so that information about the Award is carried forward as a part of the annual NLAPW Awards Program and Ceremony.

The Friend Award Committee will review all nominations, select a winner or possible winners, and recommend their decision to the Contest Committee. A decision will also be made and carried out regarding an appropriate prize and the presentation itself. Publicity about the award will be coordinated through the Contest Chair and Branch Media Chair.


The Friend Award will be presented as part of the annual Contest Ceremony.


Please submit the Nomination Form and any supporting information by February 20, 2015.

Send to: Mary Gardner, 2411 Wave Way, Skaneateles, NY 13152 or to mlgardner37@yahoo.com

Please click on the following link to open and print the nomination form:

Friend Award Nomination Form


Alert! Pen Women Art Exhibit

Below is the information that you will need for the opening at  Baldwinsville Public Library.  I will also print out and disperse paper  copies to those who attend the November meeting. ( These public displays  and performances of poetry readings and visual arts are part of our membership  outreach and active participation in our community.  They are work for us  all, but are free for the most part).
Receiving date:    November 30, Saturday, from 10am-noon
Opening and Poetry  Reading:   December 5, Thursday, from 6-8pm   Poetry reading at  7:30pm
Take down and pick up:   December 30, Monday, from  4-6pm
Each visual  artist may send one large piece, two 20×24 or smaller, or three 16×20 or  smaller All work  must be wired or otherwise ready to hang
Framed  poetry or writings will be appreciated and readings sought!  Please notify  Mary Kester if you will read at the opening (email me at kester@bci.net or call 638-4036)
Business  cards, brochures, books for display and one page bio or resume will be  displayed
Labels will  be filled out and attached upon delivery of work
The library will  serve punch, cheese, crackers and fruit for the opening.  We have no  obligation for this.  I do hope that most of us will participate at this  busy, festive time of year!  Please let me know if I can facilitate any  part of your joining with us! (kester@bci.net or  638-4036).
Mary Kester