Friday, September 29, 2023

2017 Ode to the Zip Code Poetry Contest Winners

What does your zip code mean to you?

Last year, we joined the Toledo Fair Housing Center, the Arts Commission and the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and asked our community that very question— and we were overwhelmed by the responses. Short poems from our neighbors detailing how they felt about their neighborhood came pouring in— some sentimental, some funny, some happy, some somber— but each as unique as the writer. We had to do it again.

This year’s contest was huge. Over 250 odes were submitted by Northwest Ohio residents, providing us a peek inside their home and giving us answers to the questions we would never think to ask.

Here are ten of those odes, all highly scored by our judges.

Come cheer on all of the poets, hear the wonderful odes, and help determine the winners, during the our 419 Day Ode to the Zip Code Celebration, from 5:30-8pm on Wednesday, April 19 at Main Branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (325 N. Michigan St.) in downtown Toledo.

1st Place
Lydia Horvath, for 43609


Resident of her zip code for: 7 years, as a kid. Now, she’s at 43620.

Near Detroit and Airport
We finally settled
Family of six, crowding into rentals
(here’s where I won’t discuss the summer we were homeless)
But there on Somerset, my very own pink bedroom

“This poem is about 43609, where my family bought our first home in 1984. I was 13 and I lived there until I left home at age 20. My parents still live there, and we visit them often, so I still feel very connected to the area. I moved, A LOT, as a kid. I never went to any one school for more than 2 years before high school. This poem is about the sense of security and calm that came from having my own room, in our very own house, at long last.”

2nd Place
Sandra Rivers-Gill, for 43615


Resident of her zip code for: 13 years.

Cool walking jazz swinging
Laidback picnic crowds
Sprawled smooth like lush improvised lawns
Lyrics strolling like eavesdropped memories

“I am inspired by the Jazz in the Botanical Gardens; the way people from all walks of life can seek commonality through familiar melodies and food, all in the midst of escalating world events; and just kickback and reminisce about simpler times.”

3rd Place
Justin Longacre, of 43613

Resident of his zip code for: the last 3 years— “But I also grew up in this zip code. So, most of my life I guess.”

Tailpipes shake babyboomer sternums
outside Toledo cantinas.
Waxed black thoraxes recline on kickstands
laughing from chrome throats.

“Toledo has a specifically midwestern kind of Mexican restaurant where babyboomers ride their motorcycles, eat melted cheese, drink tequila, and let the work week dissolve. 43613 has a weird confluence of these restaurants, and this is my loving ode to that experience. “

4th Place
Jonie McIntire, of 43612

My zip code is
heavy set, big
chest, beer gut, muffin top crop
thin stems

Karen Ash, of 43537


Resident of her zip code for: 25 years— ”I have always lived within a few blocks of the Maumee except for those college years. As a matter of fact, I was born on the Maumee River!”

It happens every year.
Spring breaks overnight,
Fisherman appear almost on cue.
Pickups with trailers
Fat fish, dripping waders, boastful winners….dinner!

“I’m a River rat. Spring is always special with that muddy/fishy smell of the river, a smell you can almost taste, wafting through the air. Boats arrive on the water, fishermen come back in the evening light…. I imagine the fish intently swimming through the murky river. I love the whole sense of it. I hope this poem makes others look at my river differently, rather than think of it as just an afterthought.”

Jane Bihn, of 43537


Resident of her zip code for: 14 years.

Deli, Bakery, Fish House
Fresh produce galore
Home Improvement, Automotive, Pet Supplies
One Stop Store
Alas, “The Andersons” will be no more.

“My husband and I frequently shop The Andersons for its value, selection and convenience and are sorry to see the retail store close. My Ode is a eulogy of sorts to a good community neighbor.”

Abygail Spurling, for 43620



Resident of her zip code for: 16 years (her entire life).

Grapefruit orange juice twist
At Black Kite
Squeezed from the sunlight dripping down
Collingwood ivy

“The inspiration for my poem was a date at Black Kite when my boyfriend asked if he could get grapefruit juice and OJ mixed. It was a beautiful sunny day. I’ve been involved in Children’s Theater Workshop at the Collingwood Arts Center for years, so the building has happy memories for me.”

Madison McQueen, for 43615


Resident of her zip code for: 3 years.

I can see the
cratered face of
the moon in all of the
littering my way towards home.

“I recently started to learn how to drive. As a new driver, I’ve had to realize to avoid the potholes on the road in the area (which are everywhere). This discovery about the streets in my zip code inspired me to write this poem.”

Leah Fox, for 43616


Resident of her zip for: 2 ½ years, but Toledo her entire life.

perched upon winding pipelines
gentle orange glow
towering flames lick the night sky
refinery lights are my suburban constellations

“Day or night, the refinery is a notable staple among our neighborhood skyline. Whether it’s the tall burning fire or plumes of steam, my children are always in awe of the view. Seeing their wonder in the ordinary has inspired me to challenge my perspectives of the world around me.”

Valerie King, for 43614


Resident of her zip code for: 10 ½ years.

Plenty good stuff is
what we possess:
culture, diversity, higher learning, green space
our zip epitomizes success

“For me cultural offerings, places of higher learning, abundant green space, and diversity in all aspects are crucial to me feeling at home and in sync with my environment. I feel the 43614 zip code provides these elements in spades and is in fact a microcosm of any thriving city.”

Shannon Carmony, for 43612


Resident of her zip code for: 37-39 years, (almost her whole life).

Red Wells roast beef
Corner store slushies
Family bike rides through the neighborhood
Sledding Hill

“My poem included memories from my childhood up through today! I’m sure many people in the neighborhood can relate.”
Adrian Lime, for 43612
“Shift Change in Toledo Winter”

End of third shift,
trudging through snow–
tired bodies billow steam like rows
Jeep smokestacks.

Audrey Blaufuss, for 43604

Graffiti paints downtown landscape.
Toledo loves love.
Connecting communities through vibrant puzzle pieces.

We all hold brushes.

Carla Abdullah, for 43623

Ode to the Arboretum
Maples, Elms, Evergreens
Branches dancing gracefully with the wind
Strong, majestic
Reaching the skies

Lydia Horvath, for 43604

During Uptown sunrise, see –
Across the Maumee –
Refiner’s fire and pillar of smoke
Signifying: “Laborare est Orare”

Emily Reid Green, for 43605

when the rooster crows
and trains groan
the Eastside brushes eye crumbs aside

break fast over Sunoco fumes

Sandra Rivers-Gill, for 43615

Rib grilling mouthwatering summer
Thick meaty bones
Saucy covered hands play muggy tunes
Those ants love to dance

Jeff Levin, for 43537

Quarry quarrels stoney still.
Yellow petalled daffodils.
Crisscrossed veins bulge new molehills.
Fowl-mouthed unrepentant bills,
Of geese that squawk as chicken grills.

Josh Mitchell, for 43537

I will always love
The way your
Sweet air hugs me as
I walk to
My car on a wet spring morning.

Kaitlyn, for 43528

I will always love
The way your
Sweet air hugs me as
I walk to
My car on a wet spring morning.

Karen Ash, for 43537

Four trees, rustling leaves.
Three cardinals call.
Five geese fly in formation,
Three dogs bark
Seven kayakers ride in the blue waves.

Khalil Carpenter, for 43620

The sidewalks are littered
With cigarette buds.
They have my skin, I can see:
Golden brown.

Kesha, for 43620

Gardens new and old.
Blossom, wither, renew
Edwardian, Victorian, artistic, rugged built charm
Aged Beauty

Krysta Sa, for 43620

My neighbor Ben is
blind, sitting outside
he looks out from his porch
seeing everything

Susan, for 43609

Rain brings a puddle
On gravelly roads
Cats dash around like hoppy toads

Deer jumping fence, raccoons in trees, bees that bumble

Roselina, for 43605

Abandoned betrayed and critcized.
People struggle daily.
Hood love, lust, addictions, and drugs.

Terrible truths on my block.

Sophia, for 43620

Gridded history — woods upon
Woods, sans woods
Warping leaded glass gazes towards bricks
Beneath Bancroft

Susan Borton, for 43604

Baseball Bats, Hockey Sticks
Year-Round Magic–
Mudhens Or Walleye–Count Me In!
Let The Games Begin!

Thomas Barden, for 43606

The neighborhood in repose
The mailman trudging
Can you hear the university bells

Through the muffle of morning snow?

Terri Draper, for 43615

Amidst asphalt wreckage
Nature emerges from her concrete shell
Field sparrows and indian grass

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