Mary Barnard is the winner of our poetry contest. Here is her poem
Sheboygan was known as the City of Elms,
avenues flanked by graceful trunks
with upper branches that grew
to meet triumphantly in the middle.
Leaves with doubly serrate margins
filtered harsh summer rays into
lush and abundant green light.
We played hopscotch under that canopy.
Starlings roosted in the highest branches.
At dusk their gossipy chatter spread from
neighborhood to neighborhood
and little old ladies who retire early
to their upstairs bedrooms objected.
Under order of the mayor,
policemen roadblocked the streets
with their cars, got out,
pointed muzzles upward,
and blasted away at the offenders
who fell like mini-torpedoes,
landing with the inevitable Plop. Plop-Plop.
My brother, and other boys with butch haircuts,
scurried like beetles to grab the tiny carcasses,
their legs curled, wings tucked, necks lolling,
and put them in cardboard boxes
whisked away in the trunk of the squad car.
The boys kept count of their retrievals
- dozens and dozens -
And the police let them keep the shell casings,
crammed into their pockets – a mighty bulge.
What does a leaf 40 or 50 feet in the air
know of gunfire? A few years later,
when all the elms were felled by DED,
or Dutch Elm disease, the triumphant
spread gone, the sun’s rays at full strength
on the hot hot August sidewalk,
I knew nothing of vectors and fungus
and a tree’s vascular system.
I thought the trees had been shot to death.