Dorothy Prizes Awarded for 2004




Melisa Cahnmann of Athens GA for Inspiration, Habitat for Humanity and Icaria


Christopher Goodrich of Brooklyn NY for A Thing Like Weather

Emily Rosko of Palo Alto CA for Morning Song


Nan Cohen of Van Nuys CA for Egg

Tess Taylor of Amhurst MA for Sonnet for these Artifacts, Cairns and Lullaby of Our Brook


Nicholas Mohlmann of Springfield VA for There is a Sound Made by Elephants Kissing

Emily Orzech of Northampton MA for Reflections, Dawn Walk and Moon Mud

Tara Prescott of Claremont CA for In Praise of a Town without Leaf Blowers

Allison Seay of Greensboro NC for Pray Awake


Kathryn Hogan of Bellingham WA for October Walk

Joe Kraus of Kingston PA for Seventeen Snowmen

Amy Letter of San Francisco CA for Hope

Dawn Lonsinger of Ithaca NY for Picasso's Violin

Honorable Mention ($100)

Daphne Dang for Still
Lorraine Doran for The Map of Trees
Jim Fisher for The Passionate Augur to his Peer and Night Herons
Daniel J. Hanna for Not to Say
Catherine Hope for 12
David Livewell for Late Chores
Rosaleen Hong Nguyen for Pink Princess
Ivan Ortiz for Hello
Leslie Jones Sysko for Up

Our thanks to everyone who entered and
congratulations to our winners!

Winning Poems

Melisa Cahnmann

Habitat for Humanity

We were working on her house and on our lives,
Old wars of faith among these volunteers.
God, Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Adonai.

We wore our names on duct tape and we tried
To prune and level the foundation where
We were working on her house and on our lives.

Set joists to meet the center beam inside
Our creation, hammered our interiors:
God, Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Adonai.

We built the floor with plywood and heavy sighs
Since Georgia heat was more than we could bear
While working on the house and on our lives.

The Church brought hotdogs, watermelon, and pies.
Heads bent, we sang our gratitude in prayer:
God, Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Adonai.

Four weeks of walls and trusses firmly tied,
the roof went up and from our hands appeared
her house. We worked together on our lives.
God, Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Adonai.


May the dog drop it wet
and alive at your feet.
May it aim like archers for dust
in a cluster of bees.
May moonstring lift it in lanterns
above crescent pillows
that sleep between lashes and cheeks.

May it steep in the company of teacups
or sit on a trivet to cool.
May it come like laughter in pennies
or go weep behind school
where brownstones huddle together
like sisters in winter
where pine needles still glimmer
and carry it like sparklers
on Fourth of July.

May it even come in a room full of terrible
or buried in beach sand with the heaviest parts,
a head-hole left for it
to breathe.


How can we settle down when there's so much?
So many berries bruised and bloody red.
The silken threads my fingers long to touch -
So many city streets and river beds!
I've tasted tamarinds and gypsy tea,
Climbed pyramids, sang ballads for a kiss.
I've slept above the jungle canopy,
But still the lure of all the more I've missed.
Once I supposed it best to just give up
My preference for kimchi and salted fish
if it meant I could keep you, could curl up
in plain comfort of your companion flesh.
But my direction's set on burning sky.
A pair of wings on fire for company.

Christopher Goodrich

A Thing Like Weather

Once again I return to happiness,
which means something, somewhere is in bloom

and the notion, however ridiculous,
is born again: love will not go on without me.

See how a thing like weather changes
everything? The warm earth spins a little at a time

so I won't lose my footing, and the April wind
pushes me toward collecting what it is I came for:

the belief that even in the beautiful places,
I am exceptionally possible.

Emily Rosko

Morning Song

Dear child, it is all right.
The movements of this world
are old and predictable, the sun
can rise only once each day
of a life that passes by like an ox
strapped to a plow. Such cycles
were not meant to be questioned.
Imagine winter declining into spring,
how soft the cold ground becomes
as it thaws, releases
the heavy musk of decay and dirt
so that you can't tell the difference
between death or rebirth.
Don't hide your face
just yet. Let the morning
repair your cloudy eyes.
Read the mystics for breakfast
and try to forget the distance
that must be covered for you
to witness a flock of geese
flying low beneath the moon.

Nan Cohen


A child stands at the table to watch
the raw egg fall from its just-cracked shell.
She will beg to crack the egg herself,
then tap the bowl too lightly or too hard.
She has not yet seen hundreds of golden yolks
robed in glossy albumen, or endless
weekly cartons of eggs like brittle heads;
is not yet someone who doesn't thrill
to the shell rending, or who expertly
strikes the bowl with it, parts the crack
with delicate fingers. Only this child, this moment,
reaches for this breaking egg, this morning.

Tess Taylor

Sonnet for these Artifacts

Blessings be to every scar,
the world of puckered marks that stores
evidence of what has been,
hints at what was there before.

The mountainsides were ocean floors,
and the dry ruts, riverbeds.
Time the mover does not spare
either the living or the dead,

and in its paces will polish, wear,
bring forth, unsettle all,
until even evidence is gone.

May we treasure our remains
even as the old hurts heal.
May we sanctify each door.


Up along mountain passes, you find them,
in the loose shale or granite regions,
built of heaped stones.

Formed from collecting what was at hand,
piling it up there, to mark road crossings,
the message-as-mound.

Their makers long gone,
mounds are what is left. Some stand, and some fail.
In storms they topple.

Some gesture to lost destinations.
Some edge old ways which have re-grown.
In wet springs, they green with new lichen.

Still even these broken junctions
make places to rest, to consider direction.
For silence. For listening to wind.

Lullaby of Our Brook

An hour before dawn. Birds and horns
have begun their loose play in the ears of the sleeping.
The dark is a thinning cloak we've worn

nearly through, and folded our low voices in
as we've wandered down from the far regions
of earlobes and of forgettable politicians,

to how the white cherries were sweet on the tongue,
to where winters go, when springs begin.
The night has been long. Its songs are sung.

Turn from me and rest.
I will draw up to where the line of your back
swells, mountain-dark, on the rise of your breath.

Perhaps I will whisper the tale of a brook:
An old babble chatters on as we close
into the coves of our separate sleeps.

Listen, my love: Down, down it goes -
silting deep in old crooks, stumbling over old rocks,
half-sloughing a pathway it only half knows.

Nicholas Mohlmann

There is a Sound Made by Elephants Kissing

There is a sound made by elephants kissing that

Sounds like tomorrow spread jamlike from one end

To today. Their love is fabulous folds hung beautiful

That just get dearly deeper though they always

Look old. There is a sound unique to elephants kissing

That whiskers through space in a tarry,

Tarry groove continually singing a trumpeter song

Each piano key falling like ice in a glass.

Tusks are not teeth but terrible pens from which

Ponderous sonnets wend upon us in suitable, subtle, shades 

Of gray. The sound of elephants kissing says

“We love for tomorrow and live for today.”

Emily Orzech


Great Grandfather,

I’m painting a picture today

I’ll show my friends.

They’ll see your shadow

stretched across corner of the canvas

One arm raised to take the picture.

You watch the girl, and a pair of cats

drinking from a bowl.

Or do you see your own reflection

in their dish?

I see your time only through

the lens you hold.

Can only see your shadow in the shot,

as of a ghost.

When I paint your photo back to color

it’s all wrong,

a landscape of imagination.

Do you mind that the

girl’s dress is ocher instead of blue?

Or that there is a wind when

you felt none?

Do you mind the silence of the paint?

Dawn Walk

Jack and Ruby weave through puddles.

            Tails lash, noses press to ground.

Ted’s the slowest of the lot,

            the human friend.

They are off to play the toss game, heel game, splash game,

            or morning walk as it’s sometimes known.

Ted finds a stick and holds it up.

            Ruby rises,

latches on, growls playfully, and hangs twisting

            like a banner in the air.

Then she drops. Ted throws. The dogs

            are in the river now.

Back again, shining backs and ears stream,

            tails waving high fling water drops.

Jack and Ruby shake, send misty halos

            To the air.

Ted watches water droplets catch the brightness

            Missed by drifting clouds.

Moon Mud

Tonight the moon is as gold as the songs my mother used to sing,

            of the dying day, of the singing lark that ceases its song as night comes on,

            of the dusky woods, of the golden moon that swings …

This moon lights an eerie path across the flats,

And freezes sleek swimming backs of mud with light.

The clouds surround the moon in echoes of marshy paths.

The moon, clear as a drop of water, rests where two reflections meet.



Mud glistens and slides under my fingers,

            formless, expectant …

Waiting to wind its way up through the plants, the grasses’ roots, the wood of the trees,

            engage in life.

It is like the potter’s clay, waiting for form, still containing all possibility.


At the edge of the marsh my footprints leave a narrow winding path.

The water pools in the prints as the moon pulls the tide in towards land.

The moon is in the footprints too …

            a tiny shining disc suspended in each puddle, no bigger than a penny. 

Tara Prescott

In Praise of a Town without Leaf Blowers or Street Cleaning

People popcorn-stepping down the leaf-loud block,

shuffling powdered leaves to the ticking of the clock,

stepping on newspapers, papyrus in the streets,

curling, floating sheaves raining down in sheets.

Feet beat the pavement pushing leaf-meal back,

Cranch, sh-crack, cranch, sh-crack, cranch, crack-crack.


Bartlett pear, naugahide, leather bomber jacket,

banana skin vellum adding whispers to the racket,

caught in windshield wipers, icing every car,

adding crumb-cake layers to suburban cinnabar.

Feet beat the pavement pushing leaf-meal back,

Cranch, sh-crack, cranch, sh-crack, cranch, crack-crack.


Oatmeal-colored, gingerbread, gorgeous gaudy autumn

pulling tides of chlorophyll till all the grounds become

heaped with wriggling starfish, red serrated edges,

nature pours confetti over all the clipped hedges,

Feet beat the pavenment pushing leaf-meal back,

Cranch, sh-crack, cranch, sh-crack, cranch, crack-crack. 

Allison Seay

Pray Awake

My mother has never been one

to see god in nature,

but I believe she has started to see

her long-dead mother

in the goldfinch at the feeder –

why else would she stare this way and

how is she so convinced it is

the same one everyday and who

am I to tell her it is nothing

but a bird picking greedily

at some seeds? It eats and eats

as though it had discovered something

impossible – a cure, the truth, a map

of our place in the world,

which feels much larger than

right here, in the wicker porch-chairs

where she has looked up

from her magazine, where

I watch her watch the bird,

and there is only

this moment alone, and a heart

that beats star-white.

Kathryn Hogan

October Walk

The dog trips on ahead of me,

Merrily, gaily,

Oblivious as a picaresque hero –

To the stiff golden retrievers

Charging the gate,

The coiffed Pomeranian

Scooped up in her owner’s protective arms,

The leaves falling silently

On the pond he plunges into,

The discreet backwards glances of the fleeting mallards.

So he travels the world:

Everywhere causing alarm, panic,

Narrowly escaping scrape after scrape,

Enjoying the big, wide world,

Roaming over lawns, nosing flower pots,

Spraying dark corners of concrete.

The shiatsu glares from the glassed-in porch like a palace guard;

Two goats freeze at their fence.


Romance, danger, rise up to meet him, then recede

While he speeds past with his curving smile, laughing look.

What a happy beast!

Children silent as monks trace slow, meditative circles

With their bicycles on cement driveways.

The cedars’ upturned boughs bow to us as we pass by,

Don Quixote and his stolid Sanchez.

Nobody told me that the blackberry leaves turn, too.

Joe Kraus

Seventeen Snowmen

for my student Joseph Malecki 111

Summer died that April day they found the tumor.

Nine months dripped from saline bag to tube,

and I wrestled the cancer,

            that appetite without a mouth,

til at last they came to me with smiles

and spoke to me of “remission,”

and they promised me my life.


They bundled me for February cold

and I rode, a passenger, through streets

less substantial than hospital linen

and blackened already with sand and soot.


Two days before, they said, was the snowfall

of  the season, eight inches in the valley,

more on either mountain, and father drove

as if it were new-fallen,

each almost familiar block a different verse

in a song too slow for dancing.


When we made the turn into the subdivision,

I was myself again,


                                 I was those parts of me

the surgeons had not taken,   

            and I felt those nine months like a phantom limb,

as I looked outside the fogging window

willing myself to see the wading pools and training wheels,

            the dandelions and roller skates,

            the chalk drawings and the maple helicopters,

and ice cream dripping down the cone onto a small boy’s wrist.


So, it wasn’t until mother’s gasp that I saw them:

snowmen watching us from yard after yard,

mustering  denser as we neared our home.

Some held signs of “welcome home,”

two wore jerseys of my little league team,

and several wore yellow scarves that hung limp in the cold.

“Seventeen in all,” a friend reported to us later,

           every house in the neighborhood”

except the three who wintered in Florida.


A snowman’s just a thing of ice and sun;

its arms are fallen branches, and it hasn’t any legs.

So, to say I saw them clap and dance is fantasy

I know, born of the ache in the long bones of my legs,

            but this much I know too:

there is a hunger for spring deeper than scalpels dig,

and snowmen slouching in their melt

            grin answer to icicle despair.

Amy Letter

Hope (forgive me)

I love kitchens drenched in sun,

the steamy must of a million growing green things

creeping in the door, mingling

with coffee and the morning news made pleasant

for TV, and droned in gentle tones – parrots

squawk approval. We know

the world is not all sunny Sundays,

that the coffee we drink is grown in blood,

that our lush green world belonged

to another people we destroyed, and sent

to live in deserts far from home.

But hope is part forgetting, and part love.  

Dawn Lonsinger

Picasso’s Violin

She slices  slowly the strawberries: delicate red flesh,

sparkling with sequins of seed, bleeds juice, her paring


knife as deliberate as the cancer, slicing through soft matter,

slitting hairs of cranial nerves. The blade nips staccato


at her palm. This rambling carcinoma (liquid dumped into soil,

she thinks – it cannot be extracted) drives deep into the darkroom


of the brain, as when ants swarm dropped fruit, their dinky

hungers urging them in, impromptu and lessening labyrinth.


The skin gives up

            on the face, gives into the weight

                        of all that falls – let go


of the fruit as form: one eye already ousted. In the stainless steel

sink, she rinses the slippery thin pulp, white hearts, like her own,


held together by destiny, matter’s suspension of disbelief. The scent

of the cut-into, the ripe, the near-gone rises like ideas out of a visceral


reservoir, vines climbing through colanders into intensive light.

We enter just as she and the strawberries exchange a Mischa concerto


(its origin mutual, though the voice has been exiled from its box) and

her eye gleams like a bow, her soul sharp and awash as an old violin,


she turns with hands up,

            glistening, sticky, dulcet

                        askshow do you think Picasso would paint me?