The first official day of spring bloomed in Santa Fe over the weekend, quietly heralded by fruit tree blossoms ready to split their shiny buds, blades from bulbs slicing through the soil and people freaking out in their houses (or going out anyway against public health advice) amid daily updates about the spread of COVID-19.

SFR had already planned for this week's edition to feature the winners of our annual Spring Poetry Search. But now, sharing these words feels even more important.

Hundreds submitted their work for consideration, from which guest judge and Santa Fe Poet Laureate Elizabeth Jacobson selected these four winners. Even if you're not a regular consumer of poetry, this time could be a great time to dip in your toe. Big thanks to all the poets who supported our journalism mission with contest entries! Be well. (Julie Ann Grimm)

FIRST PLACE 

“Orange”

By Cynthia Marshall Shore

Anson Stevens-Bollen

Muffled flops and crackles spackle the dark. I flip on the light to see our big orange tom cat with a dead rabbit. He has somehow dragged it
through the cat door to my bedroom and, as if sampling a lover, buries
his mouth fastidiously in a gory red bowl at the neck. I spare my daughter,

who slipped into my bed around midnight, by sliding on boots and gathering up the rabbit. Shuffle in the falling snow to the pinon wood behind our house and

leave the carcass sheltered under a tree in a frozen cradle. Rattled, I need to remind myself I've seen this before. When I was 12, a cat skeleton in a puddle,

with tufts of fur and white maggots wriggling on bones. At six, dried stains of blood on the road my father cleaned as best he could, our little daschund killed.

Four dogs are buried around the property, and yes, the kitten, just weeks ago, shaken to a wide-eyed stretch by a neighbor's dog, her furry tummy opened

like a fan. From the trees, my house is cushioned in thick white. It stands solid, the inside dwindling, a sickly warmth, one window glowing a rusty orange.

At my back, the cool dark beckons; the rabbit, the blankets of snow. After all, I
have stood outside and looked in many windows with longing. My daughter

nods sleepily as I scrub the blood off the floor, sweep up the bits of fur, sit with tea and look outside. The black sky turns grey. The snow is falling in earnest.

The orange tom sits by the sliding door and watches with me.
We can expect about four inches today.

Shore is a writer and editor who specializes in educational communications. Her poems have been published in "Women Becoming Poems" anthology, the Global City Review and the Sierra Nevada College Review. She lives in Santa Fe with her two daughters.

SECOND PLACE 

“Flunked my Army draft physical in 1970”

By Frank Falcone

Anson Stevens-Bollen
Standing in an endless line of young men
wearing nothing more than shoes,
socks and Jockey briefs, I noticed
not every mother insisted
their son change underwear for each new day.
We carried our wristwatches, rings and wallets
in a plastic bag. Many joked and horse-played
while being poked and probed for the opportunity
to become red mist—
or a name etched on a wall.
After a lunch of ham and cheese on white bread
an Army psychiatrist and I spoke to each other
in a small room. We used straightforward words.
He suggested help, then disqualified me from service.
A month later my family doctor
prescribed one Thorazine capsule at bedtime
and during the day, when I felt my feet
begin to leave the ground, swallow a tab of Stelazine—
said it would make me feel better. It did.
But to this day, when I touch names etched on a wall,
nothing stops the flow of sorrow.   

Falcone is retired from sales in the packaging industry and moved to Santa Fe with his wife, Marcia, and two cats in 2017 from York, Pennsylvania. He never looked back.

THIRD PLACE — TIE

“Riding at supper time where rich folks live”

By Terence Gilmore Cady 

Anson Stevens-Bollen
My nine-year old legs
pedal through the vapors
of good food, drifting
from the lighted evening windows,
of good homes
in good neighborhoods.
What is it?
I want to know.
Ain’t ground beef,
don’t smell like hot rancid grease,
like at home.
Ain’t  chicken,
Smells fresh, and different,
something I ain’t had before,
something rich folks eats, I guess.
Someday I’m going to get some, too.
But how?

Cady is a recovering semi-retired trial lawyer, nationally certified child welfare law specialist. Graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, class of 1965. Active in the Free Speech Movement at Cal-Berkeley, 1964-65. He has lived and worked in Santa Fe since 1993 and written two novels, numerous short stories and poems which feature the darker sides of socially marginalized people, including children who are victimized by predatory and just plain mean adults and, in some cases, by lawyers and judges.

“My Stolen Bike”

By Ramon Sosaya 

Anson Stevens-Bollen
Everyone knew everyone in Santa Fe in 1951.  As a six year old back then,  my life evolved around my family and neighbors.  I remember walking to the plaza with my mother and little brother, pulling my red wagon.  On the way back home from the plaza, we would stop at the local pharmacy, butcher shop, and bakery and put all our purchases in my red wagon.  I was very proud of having the responsibility of bringing home the goods.  I enjoyed the walk home because it gave us a chance to socialize with friends and relatives.  My mother would talk in both Spanish and English to her acquaintances.
My mother bought me my very first bicycle, a used maroon bike with no fenders nor training wheels when I was six.  She bought it from her friend at the bakery.  I have no recollection of my bike being stolen.  But, one late afternoon with the sun going down there was knock at our front door.  My dad opened the door to see who it was.  It was a policeman with my stolen bike in his left hand and in his right hand was a wailing little boy being held with a vice grip by the policeman .  The cop and my dad talked in Spanish.  They knew each other.  My dad knew everyone.  He was heavily involved in local politics.
The little boy, about my age was crying uncontrollably.  I had never seen him before.  He was a stranger.  I could tell he was poor.  His clothes were ragged, and he had a thick layer of dust covering him from head to toe.  His tears could not run down his cheeks because they were absorbed by the layer of dirt on his face.  What really caught my attention was his wild, unkempt hair with a huge piece of gum stuck in it.
It was surreal.  I had never seen this kid before and never did afterwards.  I felt terrible for this sobbing little boy.  He was in anguish.  I didn’t want my stolen bicycle back if the poor, dark skinned boy had to suffer for taking it.  I was too little to convey these thoughts to my dad and the cop at the front door.  I think that was my first memory of feeling compassion for someone.  Despite his dirty, unkempt appearance and gum stuck in his hair, I remember the sobbing kid was one of the most beautiful persons that I had ever seen in my life.

Sosaya is a 74 year old Vietnam veteran who changed careers 49 times. He writes, "I occupy my time living in Albuquerque between playing tennis and doing things with my grandchildren. I write when I have time. I am curious about almost everything, and I love playing with words."