Contest Winners

Contest Winners

A hearty congratulations to our inaugural Robert Golden Poetry Contest winners! The winning poems are presented below.

Thank you so very much to all who entered. Our judge, Amber Flora Thomas, stated that this was a “difficult contest to judge, as there were many strong poems.”

First, Second, and Third Place winners in both the Adult and Student categories received cash prizes.

Adult Category:

First Place: “Solar System” by Melinda Thomsen

Second Place: “For Jacques Cousteau” by Susan Facknitz

Third Place: “Tonglen” by Susan Schmidt

First Honorable Mention: “And of Memory” by Ellen Fitzpatrick

Second Honorable Mention: “Don’t Weep, My Toaster Pastry Friend” by Carol Feehan

Student Category:

First Place: “A Year Ago I Was Obsessed With Death and Now I’m Obsessed With Flowers” by Sophia Purick

Second Place: “Underneath My Skin” by Kaaliyah Jones

Third Place: “When I Feel the Walls Cave In” by Morgan Wiggs

First Honorable Mention: “The Driving Man” by Lillian Speight

Second Honorable Mention: “Reminiscence of the Garden” by Lillian Duncan

Winning Poems

First Place, Adult:

Second Place, Adult:

For Jacques Cousteau

by Susan Facknitz

From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free. Jacques Yves Cousteau

The bubble girl

beneath the brine,

I swam untethered

in a deep that could have

crushed me. You came,

your bathysphere probing,

to find me in my exiled

element as I rotated

the craft I’d made to face you.

Out of the air, in this alien

depth, I was safe away

from the bruising breath of my home.

No one could follow

me here where your foreign,

fatherly voice narrated

the nautilus’ beauty, 

her spiraling shell

a mystery, an omen,

a promise that even

what first looked 

monstrous could be

redeemed.

Third Place, Adult:

Tonglen

by Susan Schmidt

In Buddhist meditation, you envision

Breathing in Light and Breathing out Light.

Tonglen is a more sophisticated practice:

Breathing in the hot smoke of others’ pain 

and Breathing out cool Light to the sufferer.

In Tibetan, Tonglen means ‘giving and taking’ 

or ‘sending and receiving.’ I am grieving: 

the Amazon rainforest, source of oxygen, home 

to zillions of plants and critters, is burning. 

In July, the hottest month ever recorded,

197 billion tons of ice melted in Greenland.

When my very Zen mentor John Elder told my class 

twenty years ago, “The Earth is Toast,” I was shocked. 

Last month John told our Orion writing workshop, 

“We have bought the ticket” for the end of the Earth

as we know it; “we must grieve what we are losing 

but celebrate what we love.” Barry Lopez in his book 

Horizon says we humans won’t be around much longer; 

humanity will decay into chaos before we disappear, 

seen already in Australia’s robotic iron-ore port.

Seabirds are going extinct; in Iceland, puffins can’t feed 

their chicks sand eels, displaced by mackerel in cold 

water because the Arctic and Greenland are melting. 

On Mauna Loa in 1958, Keeling measured carbon in 

the atmosphere at 315 parts per million. He predicted 

Earth could not recover if it rose above 350. Sixty years 

later, it’s 415. We must limit fossil fuel emissions now.

My mountain friends ask me again, “How much longer are 

you going to live at the coast ?” Do I have twenty more years? 

I worry local instead of global: sea level rise, hurricanes, 

blind leaders. As corporations bulldoze, mine, drill, log 

habitats, in my grief, I kayak with shorebirds to refill joy. 

Shall I practice Tonglen to Breathe in Earth’s looming 

Darkness and Breathe out Life to diminishing butterflies, 

starving polar bears? First, I must face my own rage, fear, 

doubt instead of pushing them away. Am I strong enough?

Breath in Darkness, Breath out Light.

First Honorable Mention, Adult:

And Of Memory.  

by Ellen Fitzpatrick

And would you let me come

home once more if the 

past could be made a 

sphere, an orb of 

acceptable weight, to hold in 

two hands without 

tearing corners, without 

rifts or ragged protrusions?  

And if its surface would not 

glitter and wane, in colors known or 

unknown, and daily 

remixed?  And if it would fall 

silent, not sing of dead joys or 

growl with barely-suppressed 

failures?  If it would not demand to be 

taken out, examined minutely, 

pored over, delicately fingered for 

slashing highs, for burning lows, 

perversely admired, and relived?  

And if it could be exactly what it is, 

memory, if it could be story, 

spoken of with kindness?  

Second Honorable Mention, Adult:

Don’t Weep, My Toaster Pastry Friend

by Carol Feehan

Don’t weep, my toaster-pastry friend, for while it is true
that the sun, and the moon, and the earth get all the poetic attention, 

these are things that have always been,
and you are something new,
something special.
A human mind charmed you into existence, though it was probably not Tesla, 

or Beyoncé. 

Your timeline is written in your form, like an ancient tasty glyph,
or a semi-chewable Stonehenge.
First you were a toast-and-jelly sandwich, lumpy, 

drippy,
not cohesive,
but easier then ironing a jelly donut.
Eventually, they tried stitching your bready-edges together, with long loopy strands of strawberry licorice,
and introduced you to Mr. Toaster.
Then, when the fire trucks left
and the smoke was scrubbed from the walls,
you were reinvented.
“You are now a tart,” they said,
but they meant the type
that gentlemen would find at the Piggly Wiggly,
and not the Foxy Lady Lounge. 

But look at you now, all grown up,
with so many brothers and sisters,
with so many colors and flavors and sprinkles (Oh, The Sprinkles!!!!)
Let us pray that the kale-stuffers
are distracted
and do not turn their gaze
to your tender innards,
or your trip down the green mile
will surely be the end of our relationship. 

For you are meant to be a treat,
not a chore;
a friend that travels when needed,
or a sweet surprise in the back of the pantry when you have eaten through
all the rest of your hurricane snacks. 

Go ahead and let them coo
over the sun, and the moon, and the earth,
but those things are out there,
away,
at a distance,
and you are right here,
beginning your journey to human tissue.
You’ll be waxing and waning through my personal waterslides, hiking my beautiful canyons
and, of course,
visiting my fascinating
road-side attractions (no special upcharge required).
So let’s give it a couple of hours,
finish up the process,
put a big bow on it.
Then we’ll go walking.
And laugh.
And be our universe. 

First Place, Student:

A Year Ago I Was Obsessed With Death and Now I’m Obsessed With Flowers

by Sophia Purick

We want to be a flower
Beautiful and delicate
With soft, supple, pale petals – Petals that are so light and delicate, they get every second
out of the gentle summer breeze Forever in sweet matrimony
with the bees and butterflies.

We want to be a flower
Innocent , pure, with a blank slate.
No worries whatsoever
Not a care in the world, for there is no possible way a flower could let off any sort of feeling or emotion.

Yes, being a flower means we wither away,
and die rather quickly compared to humans.
But being a flower means ​not being able to worry or care,
Not being able to worry about death or about our own beauty, or if we’re truly loved or not. Being a flower means we know we’re always going to have the tender love and care of Nature on our side.

We’re not like a flower at all

We may be delicate, defenseless, and weak,
But we are far from innocent or pure,
But we are far from being beautiful in every stretch of our own imagination. Our petals are disgusting looking
All mottled, bruised, and discolored.
By no sort of possibility will we be as carefree as a daisy in a field.
By no means will we ever get to be free of all burdens and past sins.
We are guilty of so many atrocities,
It is with us, and forever more will be too.
Our perspective of happiness is now twisted.

We just want to know what happiness is again.

We believe that when we die, after our body rots into the earth, becomes one with it,
we’ll eventually turn into flowers.
Hundreds and hundreds of aster daisies,

clovers, dandelions, and atamasco lilies.
We will hopefully have felt what happiness truly is,

before we become one with the flowers.

Second Place, Student:

Underneath My Skin

by Kaaliyah Jones

Underneath my skin, my skin, my skin

My blood runs deep, deep into my heritage
A heritage that begins and ends with a slash
One side African American the other a question mark A question mark that is answered but not understood

My brown complexion leaves others wondering Plus my silky black hair that comes to my shoulder Curls, curls, curls that can’t be understood
A family, one race, and the other one

You’re probably wondering what is the question mark And here is your answer that is easy to explain
Two best friends found comfort after heartbreak
One a mother and the other a Hispanic man

My father a man who wanted his little girl Last-minute chose that he was too young
My name would have been Monica or Monique After my other grandma who I might never see

But my skin, my skin, right underneath Has more heritage from who raise me I might not know a side of me
But I’m black and brown as can be

Because underneath my skin, my skin is just me

Third Place, Student:

When I Feel The Walls Cave In

by Morgan Wiggs

I am loving and kind
I wonder about the earth
I hear whales from the ocean
I see raging waters
I feel the water rush between my fingers

I am loving and kind
I pretend to pay attention
I feel happy sometimes
I touch around wall of my issues I worry about my family
I cry about loss

I feel the sensation of the the water under my feet I see the cloud become darker
I feel the wind blow my hair
I worry in wonder if others will be safe

I sense the danger with the scene ahead of me

I am loving and kind
I know life is rough
I say we live a full life
I dream about the future and what it can become I see my future life rise from the ground
I can be who I want to be

First Honorable Mention, Student:

The Driving Man

by Lillian Speight

Going 70 in a 55 and
Speeding around the curve.
Looking at the figments of his imagination because He couldn’t see the real world.

Eyes off of the road and a Cigarette in hand.
The passengers screaming at him; “Dad, slow down!”

The impact of the truck against all of the mailboxes.

Crash! Snap!

The tires of the vehicle swerving to the other side of the road.

Squeal! Squeak!

The truck slamming to a stop as it crashes into the ditch.

A full minute of silence.
A whimper from the baby in the back seat, then Another cry from the young boy, then
A scream from the teenage girl.

Another girl in the front seat who is Yelling at the driver, her dad.
Her dad, the drunk.

The addict.

The girl curses,
Yells, cries, shakes, while
The man just sits there, smiling.

Smiling because he had no idea what he had done.

Drunkenly, he chuckles Everyone stares at him. Then he stops. Sitting still.

Realizing how he messed up.

In the distance, sirens from the rescue blend with the Screams from his daughter, injured from the crash. Cops tackle the man to the ground and
He cries out “Don’t take my damn kids!”

They weren’t being taken, just leaving him.

The family arrives to the wreckage seeing
Dirt and gravel strewn everywhere.
The burden of the heat and anger getting to everyone. They all hate him for drinking.

They hate him for what he chose to do. He thought driving a 10,000 pound truck And drinking a full half-gallon of liquor Was an okay thing to do.

The man’s oldest son, a young boy with autism Can’t take in the sight of his siblings
And his father hurting, but the boy has
No idea what his dear daddy did.

The man blows a .24, and says he remembers nothing.
His children remember it all, from the
Crash into the mailboxes, to the oldest girl’s glasses
Flying off of her face, to the man cursing at the paramedics.

This is what drinking can do to a person, the man’s sister Tells all of his children. It can break you, ruin you, Destroy you.
Destroy everyone around you.

Just 2 days later, the man is freed from his cell. Not free from the anger. His oldest daughter Still hates what he did. Hates the
Memories that will always haunt her.

Second Honorable Mention, Student:

Reminiscence of the Garden

by Lillian Duncan

Reminiscence of the GardenGod in the garden
There are no plants,
There are no birds.
Bright fluorescents overhead,
A white glaring tile floor Beneath heavy steps.Bustle, conversations,
A colorful mix of heat
And the aura of a hundred bodies.
Yet there’s only one I home into
One golden bodied angel.
Oh, the trembling,
Pretend this wasn’t planned,
Fake it all.
Truth lies in what the body feels
That first, tight embrace
Is this even real?
Long fingers, soft skin
Clasping mine
Eyes of blue and hazel
Is this even happening?
You don’t love me.
Venturing,
Exploring now in this garden
Every second and breath remembered.
Photos,
Departure,
Electric wavelengths reminding us of where we are
This space.
We meet again,
The hawk leaving me from its watchful eyes
Only briefly
An exchange.
How heavy my heart,
Love and a beautiful gift
Golden.
To the end of the garden
One final embrace,
I didn’t want to pull away.
Suppress my salt as I recall The last hours.
It’s never enough,
I miss you.