What follows are the winners of the Seventh Annual Yule Love It Lavender Farm Poetry Contest as judged by Melanie Dunbar. This year’s theme was “Summer Song.”

First Place: Ryan Apple, Lansing, MI

Note to the Midnight Train Engineer
I know it’s real late, no traffic for miles,
kids long in bed and you know
just one chord,
but listen, it’s July

and this window is open wide
to the sweet & salty
& sultry night breeze, moonlight
brushing my love’s open shoulder,

peeper’s liquid tone, field cricket groove,
and you, of course,
wailing that C minor seven flat five,

so pensive and all that’s still needed
of all that I love about jazz.

Judge’s comment: I love the breezy tone of this poem. I can see the dark, the moonlight, and hear the train. Lovely use of images. I also really like that the train equals music. Bonus points for not using “summer” and “song” in the poem.

• • • •

Second Place: Amy Nemecek of Wyoming, MI.

Second Cutting
My dad surveys the south field
from the seat of his Farmall C.
with one eye he watches the west,
where a fist-sized pewter scruff
threatens rain. With the other eye
he gauges a row of cut, crimped
stalks crisping in the heat and rakes
them into sage-gold windrows. The
sun is setting as he hitches the rust
baler to begin a steady sweep-push-
sweep-push-sweep-push-knot, and
prickly slick squares slide from its
chute to land on dusky stubble. I drive
our smoke-blue Ferguson in low gear
with an empty wagon jouncing behind.

My brothers walk to either side,
heft bales by the twine and pitch
them onto the weathered flatbed.
After each row I depress the clutch,
pausing so they can climb aboard
and order the jumble into solidity.
Chaff coats their tanned torsos,
bootcut Levi’s, and tousled hair,
but above red bandanas that shield
mouth and nose, their itchy eyes
glimmer youth. A sweaty scent
mingles with clean alfalfa, tractor
exhaust, and an August moon that
rises amid cicadas’ crescendo
to silver our lives with its song.

Judge’s comment: I really love this slice of summer life on the farm. The hard work itself is a song. The family is hot and sweaty and also, it seems to me, joyous. There is great value to this hard work, and the satisfaction of this job done will last long after summer.

• • • •

Third Place: Colleen Alles of Grand Rapids, MI.

Teen Years
In the northeast corner of her garden
and for ten thankless years

my mother anchored peony bushes
with stakes and cages
so her flowers
would stand straight and tall in early June

when they were finally ready
to leave the tight balls of their buds

when they were finally open
to holding the overwhelming weight of
their own magnificent blooms.

Judge’s comment: What I love about this poem is the simple language. It is also a good use of extended metaphor.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.