The woman who judged this year's poetry contest shouldn't have any spare time. She's one of those people who can simultaneously make you feel like you can and will change the world and that you are not working hard enough.

When Alix Hudson is done with her day job in a Spanish-language classroom, where she teaches 3-year-olds with disabilities in her seventh year with Santa Fe Public Schools, she's likely to be on her way to rehearsal for a theater production she's either acting in or directing. (Our theater critic says Atravesada, a collection of performed spoken-word poetry of the borderlands she led earlier this year at at Teatro Paraguas, was a bilingual masterpiece for the books.) Additionally, the Indiana native is writing plays, getting a masters degree, volunteering on a board of a directors and sits on and the school district's Diversity and Equity Committee.

When she says "Nina Otero," as in the name of the elementary school in town, she pronounces the last name with a roll of the r and short vowel sounds. She cares about using the right reflexive form of a verb in her second adopted language. She worries about things like food waste, ICE raids and whether it's truly warm enough to wear strappy wedges to our lunch over spring break at the Cowgirl. And as she pored over each of the dozens of poems submitted by SFR readers for our Spring Poetry Search, she made lists of the images and concepts that struck her.

What she wrote almost reads like a few stanzas:

First: yak butter, oily tomatoes, venison and the moon, gossiping birds, dead beetle fingers, breastfeeding philosophy.

Then: Love requires ease; precision leads to bonding; the allusions of fonts; being both the stick and the one that is beaten; how heaven works.

Hudson loves poems that use natural aesthetics to relate to the human condition; work of the three women she chose at this year's winners—Meg Specksgoor, Antoinette Villamil and Robyn Hunt—fit that style.

"For me, poems have to be image or forget it," she explains. "And extra points if it's the image of nature related to the image of self. So these are all about bodies relating to the earth and the family. It's these body politics related to how we navigate through the world."

Not a winner? Wondering why? Hudson tells SFR she made notes about every single poem and would be glad to provide individual feedback. We'll help you get in touch; write editor@sfreporter.com.

WINNER

Anson Stevens-Bollen

As My Father Has His Heart Attack (After Jeremy Radin)

By Meg Specksgoor

As my father has his heart attack,
he is fastened in his security uniform,
walkie holstered, emails open,
getting ready to go to breakfast,
mind already brimming with black coffee,
mouth anticipating scrambled eggs on rye.
He is a simple man with
small morning happinesses.
This I have inherited.

As my father has his heart attack,
I am sleeping an hour away.
Soundly.
Dreams flowing like blood through
uncompromised arteries.
No stirring of intuition,
eyelid twitch, startle wake, or
nag of the feet to be planted on the floor.
My father just got over bronchitis.
Got it working a 16 hour shift at 72 years old.
We all forget his age.
Like cholesterol, it always seems like
just another number.

My father likes a good bargain.
On Veteran's Day he dons his army cap,
Bamberg Germany, 1963,
does all the grocery shopping he's saved for the discount,
eats free waffles at IHop, a free cheeseburger at Bill Grays,
then drives to a different Bill Grays to get another.
As my father has his heart attack,
he complains
that the ambulance doesn't take him to
Rochester General instead of Strong because
we would have had free parking and meal tickets.
As my father has his heart attack,
it stops beating
twice.

When we walk into the room,
he is sitting upright, asking if
anyone texted him and looking like he
faked a stomach bug to get out of class.
The only telltale sign is
the shock pad burns on his chest,
like the burns on my leg when I was nine,
riding his motorcycle for the first time.
My father has unfinished business here.
Doesn't want to die before
perfecting his hot sauce recipe,
seeing the Alamo, or
piecing his family back together.
He requests a Bible but doesn't read it.
He wants religion nearby
like an on-call nurse.
I wonder if he tried to bargain
his blood back into movement with a
please, God.
Please.
My children are a broken circuit,
a leaking heart,
have been bleeding internally for a year
and I'm a stent they can't afford to have removed.
My father likes a good bargain.
This I have inherited.

The news has been calling for
hurricane force winds all day:
downed power lines, felled trees, blockage,
crashed cars like blood clots on the highway,
but late that night
I stand in the driveway of the house I grew up in.
There is no wind.
I'd be inclined to say dead still,
if the words didn't seem so heavy.
It should be eerie,
like the time between the
tingling of your left hand and the
pressure crushing your chest, or
the instant the monitor beeps flatten out,
but it's peaceful,
comforting
in some way I can't articulate.

At the hospital
my brother, sister and I eat salads
and fruit cups in front of my father and
sneak to the cafeteria later
for pizza and milkshakes.
There is a moment that feels like
the quieting of an immense wind.
Like nothing has been pushing or pulling us
for the past year,
tearing at each other's faces,
making it difficult to breath, to take steps,
to move forward.
In this moment everything else
seems so much farther,
so much smaller:
the intervention, the court appearances,
the 3 am dread and 4am one hour of sleep,
the phone calls and lack of phone calls,
the night we couldn't wake my sister up,
all the ominous words that stick
to the inside of our aeortas
or ball up just behind
our hearts.
Forced reconciliation can be sudden,
like cardiac arrest, or
the way you realize your parents' mortality all at once,
even though you noticed the naps and undyed hairs,
the Sensodyne toothpaste,
the loafers and wool derby caps long ago.

My brother had emergency open-heart surgery
five years ago.
Awoke in the middle of an October night with
bones shattered, a shoulder dislocation so severe
the doctors said it could only have happened by
electrocution, blunt force trauma, or a grand mal seizure.
A nurse caught a glimpse of his heart in one of the x-rays.
He had a faulty valve and an aneurism dilated 5cm.
Would have been dead by Christmas.

This isn't the kind of poem
With a gut-wrenching hindsight.
This isn't a poem of if-onlys or almosts.
This isn't the kind of poem
That draws big conclusions
because 3 out of 5 of us are
inexplicably still alive.
This is just the kind of poem that says
my family lives on second chances
like organ transplants.
We've found mercy
tucked in hospital-cornered sheets.
Gales have tumbled our communication lines,
hacked at our family tree,
obstructed our roads home or away,
but, here,
six floors below the cardiac wing
and not six feet under the flapping of wings,
making jokes over pepperoni slices and cookies and cream,
for a moment the wind is so still,
I can hear the breaths that aren't our last.
I can hear nostalgia.
I can hear their heartbeats.
I can hear the ways in which
we made it.

Meg Specksgoor is an author, spoken word poet, rafting guide, shameless dog petter and breakfast enthusiast from western NY. She loves campfires and anyone who will tell her a story around them. She holds a BA in English/Writing, represented Buffalo in the 2017 National Poetry Slam, and is publishing a young adult novel this year.

SECOND PLACE

Anson Stevens-Bollen

A Metaphor for Marriage

By Antoinette Villamil

On days when I return to the idea
of you, I see my younger self shining, glossy-maned
and sparkling-eyed, standing in front
of the former casita in which I'd lived: stuccoed with diamond
plaster, hard sienna floors warm to the touch, the scent
of lavender so strong it reeked, and my dog, now dead and buried there,
merely peppered with grey, resting at the door. I see the green

mountain hidden behind the sixty-year-old apricot, magnificent
with leaves and still, the owner promised, bearing
fruit. I should have taken a closer
look—hardened sap oozed between the bark, a sticky
amber, and each spring, as I waited
for pink buds to emerge, black limbs grasped
skyward in vain. Yet still, I
searched for fruit each July. Just

one?
And year after
year, disappointed with what was offered,
with the lack not only of harvest,
but of just a momentary taste
of something so sublime.

Antoinette Villamil holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New Mexico State University. She has taught high school and college level writing classes, most recently at IAIA and New Mexico School for the Arts. As Program Manager or at Many Mothers, Antoinette loves supporting families in the Santa Fe community and spends her ever-diminishing free time hiking, practicing yoga, writing, and chasing after her 4-year-old son.

THIRD PLACE

August Harvest

By Robyn Hunt

My pear-shaped core bore a string of polyps. Cancerous. Ghostlike.
Small color-drained leaves clinging to night's sunset lining.

The first surgical draw took a layer of dry desert. Half inch incisions
on my belly, a convex bread plate, swollen with carbon dioxide.

Ovaries like tiny hornos, cracked and crumbling. Piñon nuts swallowed
in a single hungry mouthful. Fallopian tubes harvested like cacti sliced and fed

to dairy cows to sweeten their milk. My own worn heart, honeyed
watermelon mixed with salt. This anesthetized body, cut and stewed as

whole stands of cactus observe from their sleepy perimeter. Mammillary
fans drinking in afternoon light, threatening a torrent of rainwater,

residual remorse, coursing down the arroyo's blind curve
ahead. Incisions and memories hidden with translucent glue.

In recovery, I consider the field of green and pointed spikes. Hunter's green.
Agave green. Inebriant of all that has poured through.

Finally, I sleep the surprise of sticky after-taste. Prickly pear's radish red
fruit rolled into sweet jam and hard candies.

I remember estrogen-spurred milk moving into my breasts. My organs
lean into the hollow that once held my daughter.

Robyn Hunt once ran printing presses and owned a small bookstore. Today she lives with her husband in her native New Mexico where she continues to write poetry while also working as Development and Communications Director for Las Cumbres Community Services. Her debut collection of poems, The Shape of Caught Water, is available through Red Mountain Press and on her blog, mourningdovespersist.blogspot.com.