Saturday, December 2, 2023

Toledo City Paper’s Poetry and Fiction Contest 2017

“I think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree,” wrote poet Joyce Kilmer in 1914. Too bad he wasn’t able to check out the 2017 entries to the City Paper’s annual Poetry and Fiction contest. Toledoans sent us their self-penned words poetry and short fiction, with all entries capped at 365 words, based on the theme “Some Year.” Lamentably, we couldn’t all the entries, but here are the winners, chosen by our judge, Joel Lipman, and runners-up, chosen by us, who had the “write stuff.”


Judge Bio:

We are grateful to have former Lucas County Poet Laureate (2008-2014) Joel Lipman to judge the City Paper’s annual Poetry and Fiction Contest. The writer, educator and community arts advocate has been a consistent and creative force promoting Toledo’s literary arts community. Lipman, emeritus professor of English at the University of Toledo, founder of the Abracadabra Studio of Poetics and an accomplished writer, will have several of his poems, themed around the Great Lakes, published in the Fall 2018 issue of “Inland Seas,” the quarterly journal of the Great Lakes Historical Society.

Poetry Winner:

By Leslie Krasniewski

I felt like a young woman,
nearly eighteen years,
for the first time
flying down Route 19
on the back of a Harley.
Out of control, reckless, and butterflies.
With nowhere to hide,
you asked me my name.

Your invitation for coffee and pasties.
Texting you have carte blanche in my life.
How the manicured lawn tickled our bare feet,
when you taught me to golf. When I
captured you for a bloody mary boat ride
to catch the sunrise near the lighthouse.
Meeting your children
and you meeting mine,
wondering where you’ve been.

Breathing light into your mother’s
diamond ring,
near the fireplace and beaming red roses,
you rehearsed your wedding proposal.
But your pain, concealed like thorns,
interrupted my eager response, “I will!”
Obstruction, surgery, cancer, surgery.
Spreading quickly like a poked egg yolk.
An intertwined grape vine
without the pleasure of the wine.

Holding your frail body,
humility spilled from your mouth.
Caressing your hands, your arms,
your cheek,
the morphine spoke to me,
whispering our future.
A Hawaiian honeymoon,
satin sheets, umbrella cocktails
on the beach,
grandkids and a puppy you named Bo,
until you couldn’t breathe.

Convince me?
That some moment in time,
some year in the future,
my heartache will mend
like a heavy rain
that pours for days,
seeping into the soil of drought.
Cracked, broken
separate from itself.

Runner up

Some Year, Toledo
By Sam Wright

Some year, Toledo, I will salute you:
When your streets are paved
When East Toledo becomes more than potential
When visionary leaders rise from the ashes and
When your hostile guns and needles are finally disarmed

Toledo, I have spent a lifetime walking your streets,
delivering your newspapers,
selling memberships to the Zoo,
climbing trees, falling in love, shedding my
earning degrees under the shadow of a soaring limestone bell tower, scuba diving forty feet below
the shimmering surface of Salisbury Quarry, making a living
at three different hospitals, raising daughters and
handing over the car keys
only to watch them in turn drive away….

Oh Toledo,
Where now your heart, your pulse,
the competitive allure that once built
Where the spark plugs that drive the engine?
Where the Scales once so universally

Toledo, I love Hungarian hot dogs as much as the next guy,
but can they sustain us? Danny Thomas asked us make room for St. Jude’s,
Mildred Benson’s mysteries Drew us in,
MS Steinem helped launch a new woman and
Farr’s Klinger a new kind of man. But who stayed?
Only the few happy with life lived in the minors.

Saban won national championships with ‘Bama and Pinkel elevated Mizzou, post UT.
They came; they departed.
Two coaching greats for whom T-Town
became a stepping stone,
a nice place to move up from.
Unwittingly they took a part of us with them,
diminishing the remains.
For all that, Toledo, we grew to love you more,
not less. Still, I wonder : Are we destined only for the middle rung?

Hear me Toledo: We love Crystal and Katie, our Walleye and Hens,
our Museum and Jeeps, Lake Erie and the springtime run on the mighty Maumee.
And rightly so. But Mighty Mouse is not on his way.
Nor do we need him.
The talent, the genius, the imagination
are here already.
Time has come, Toledo, to roll up our sleeves.
Time has come, Toledo, to engender a new dawn.
Time has come, Toledo, to remake
our beloved home.
Not some year, Toledo. Now.


By M. Mick Dryve

The room is becoming so dusky. Your hand is a welcome comfort against my thin skin. I wish i could explain; your touch transmits a fondness throughout my body, and then annoyingly, it’s offset by a sadness, a nostalgic melancholy. Each emotion resonates to my core, to every recess. The contact triggers a piercing recap of life’s love, energy, depression, joy and sorrow. I desperately wish i could explain. I could never explain.

My mind races, reminiscences of times shared. Snowy mountains, sun splashed sandy expanses hot on our bare feet, those rich blue soaked western skies at which we marveled.
What about that tree house. Oh, we never built that tree house. ‘Some day, dad.’
Birthday cakes, playing catch, marveling without words, discussing. I rubbed your back and told you stories, do you remember now? Laughing so hard our stomachs ached and eyes pooled with tears, wrestling on the floor until fatigue set in and called for dinner. Patience. Impatience. But still, we never built that tree house. ‘Some day. Some year.’

I chased you endlessly on the playground, waterfalls, rainbows; can’t you remember? Songs sung together off key, shoulder rides, helped you to two feet, to two wheels. I so dearly hope you’ll remember.

‘Some day, then some year.’ Why didn’t we build that tree house.

I’m frightened. How can such a softly ticking clock sound so threatening. Regrets punching me like a clenched fist, and yet, our life shared washed over me like a warm ocean wave. We played together in crashing waves. Don’t you remember? There’s comfort, there’s anxiety. I could never explain. Appreciative, ashamed, content, remorseful. The laughing, crying, the soothing, thanking, apologizing, hurting, the wondering.

The knowing, not knowing.

How can I be so tired yet my mind so consumed? It is such a struggle to focus.
I want to recall. I know you’re here, i’m thankful you’re here. Im satisfied, i’m regretful. I hate to leave, I want to let go, i’m afraid to let go, I wish you could understand. Do you, do you understand? We should have built that tree house. We never built that tree house… some year, some year.

“We nev…, some y…, this ye…, son go build…”

Runner up

By Kevin Mahoney

Standing on the Lake Erie shoreline and gazing at the horizon, I was overtaken by conflicting emotions. I had an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, and yet I sensed an important discovery was near. I worked hard to swallow my depression and be optimistic, but I’d had my hopes dashed more than once.

My travels had taken me from countless towns across the breadth of lower Michigan and from the Ohio border to the middle of the lower peninsula. Although I know the dangers of hitchhiking, my financial resources are embarrassing low and money only arrives when I complete what odd jobs I can scrounge up. Luckily, there are still plenty of trusting people willing to give a rather tattered middle-aged man a lift to the next town. And so far, I’d not met any dangerous characters.

I favor small towns over cities and try to make contacts and ask my questions quickly before moving on. Thus far I haven’t accumulated any useful information but I know it’s only a matter of time before I strike gold. For the most part, people have been kind. Rural folks are naturally inquisitive when it comes to strangers so they tend to allow a few questions and give honest answers. When I pass through larger towns and cities, I move swiftly and choose my targets carefully.

I pulled the creased road map out of my rucksack and made a note of what towns I would pass through today. I wanted to be away from the water when nightfall came to avoid the cool lake breeze. Autumn was coming and sleeping outdoors was becoming a bit uncomfortable. With any luck I would find some bales of hay or straw to snuggle up with. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about bears. I’d had my share of bears.

As I set off toward my first destination of the day and a fresh chance for enlightenment, I pushed disappointment out of my mind. Since the morning I’d awakened in an alley with no idea of who I was, I’ve held out hope that one day I’ll discover my identity. And who knows? Maybe I have a family. It’s been one year.

Recent Articles