Winning Poem | Second place | Third place

Winning Poem

The Reason We Gather for the Solar Eclipse
By Linda Neal Reising

It is not because the light pinholes through oak
leaves, creating a circus of crescent suns
upon the lawn—performers in spangled costumes.

It is not to feel the day lose its way,
the waning of warmth sending icy
fingers to stroke our prickled arms.

It is not to see the scenery’s color seeping
away to sepia, like a tin-type photograph
of unremembered ancestors.

It is not hearing the sudden hush
of songbirds rushing to roost
among the limbs of shadowed pines.

It is not observing orb-weaving spiders
dismantling their webs, stowing them
like returned sailors’ rigging.

It is not to keep a date with Venus,
spreading her goddess glow, outshining
the stars, startled by their daytime awakening.

It is not to share the wealth of Bailey’s
beads, strung around the Moon or the golden
corona crowning the royal Sun.

No, we gather for that moment, after totality’s
darkness, when we stand, faces upturned,
waiting for that brilliant flash of promise,

and we think, Ah, yes, this is the way it will be.

Second place

What I Know of Eclipses 
by Matt Del Busto

My son is little enough
not to know the one 
in the reflection is him. 

He presses his hands
against the glass 
and coos, his legs 

shimmying beneath
with the shudder of
who’s not yet stepped alone. 

Behind him, my hands, 
giant against his trembling frame,
continue their fatherly orbit. 

We play this game
where I’ll hide my head
behind his own— 

to him, I’m suddenly
gone behind a boy 
he’s never met, but loves. 

His expression oscillates 
at my disappearance: confusion,
then wonder, then awe 

as I shift my head 
to the side, grin wide enough
to break through 

the smudged reflection. 
He smiles back—astonished,
then delighted. To disappear 

only to return—brief darkness
making new beauty 
for the light to step into. 

Tell me, how could we help
but look up and grin? 

Third place

On the Day of the Eclipse 
By Elsa Bell 

Let the carpenter turn from the nail,
Let the boater lift his sunglasses, 
the teacher settle the children on the grass.
Let the farmer kill the plow’s engine, 
the minister unbow from prayers,
the cars slip onto the shoulder 
The drivers roll the windows down and wait,
the offices spill people to the sidewalk. 

Let the dogs whine and trot inside,
The drowsy bees zip to their box,
the cows sink in the meadow. 
Let the owls and bats and crickets out.
Good night, good night, sun. 
Good night, strange night,

Let us think of the ancients, pointing 
To the sun being swallowed by a serpent,
A hole in the sky! 
They stopped a war to stare And made a fearful peace. 

A restlessness, superstition even, twinges in us—
the moon curtain draws, the light dims like old film,
The air cools, the shadows thin to ribbons, 
waving like hair under water. 
The crescent sun extends long horns— 
Oh, how we have forgotten all that’s in the sky! 
The otherworldly, the unearthly, the grand and marvelous. 

Let the moon ring the sun And a gong break the dark. 
Let us celebrate this deep night 
In the midst of an otherwise ordinary day.
Let us pause. 
Let us look up.