In celebration of Whitworth’s 125th anniversary, students were asked to write a poem of exactly 125 words, including the words “pine,” “cone” and curtain.”
1st Place winner Sandra Tully is from western Washington and is currently a senior at Whitworth. She is an English/writing major and also a Computer Science major.
Guest Judge Arlin Migliazzo had this to say about Tully’s poem, “Perhaps Da Vinci Told Her”: I can envision the master himself nodding appreciatively at the poet’s whimsical but humane explanation for Mona Lisa’s smile that almost isn’t. The reference to da Vinci’s ingenious flying “contraption,” the artist’s care in his desire to hide the “tea stained tinge on her two front teeth” and her damaged incisor cracked “into a thousand tiny triangles” speak to the centuries that separate us from the painting itself. Yet the recognition that she might have wanted “to show a subtle streak of rebellion” and his efforts to coax a real smile out of her as well as his compassion in masking her physical limitations speak to our shared humanness across the years.
Perhaps Da Vinci Told Her
not to smile, still she turned the corners of her mouth
just enough to show a subtle streak of rebellion.
Perhaps he made her laugh,
recounting the time he tested his own contraption;
catapulting into the cold night air,
and waking up shivering and naked in a field
surrounded by cattle beveled, staring,
like the slanting surface of a cone.
Perhaps he would have seen it then,
her two lips parting like horizontal curtains
revealing the fall from a pine tree that
fractured her left incisor into a thousand tiny triangles.
Perhaps he waited for her amusement to fade,
slowly concealing the tea stained tinge of her
two front teeth until all that was left
was the lingering remnant of delight.
2nd Place winner Leah Dassler is a freshman marketing major with a Chinese minor. She hails from Denver, Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, playing tennis, and going on adventures with her family. At Whitworth, you can usually find her having random dance parties with her friends or exploring Spokane. In her spare time, Dassler loves to read and write poetry because poetry often presents truth in its rawest form.
Guest Judge Arlin Migliazzo had this to say about Dassler’s poem, “Navigating Red and Black”: I am drawn into the mystery of this poem–and its puzzling, even disconcerting message for me. Since the author clearly cares for the companion(s?), does the incurred expense “in red and black” refer to a connection (or connections) here at Whitworth? As the debit/credit ledger theme is carried on in other phrases (“numbers corralled between parentheses/To ignite finely-kept balance sheets” and “gypsy tendencies unaccounted for/The ones tensioned between red and black”) is it rather a paean to the necessity of repeated forgiveness in the constant human struggle upward toward authenticity, both for ourselves and for those we most care about? What is the poem urging me to consider in my quest for self-knowledge as that quest both connects me to others and also creates pain for those closest to me? That is the disconcerting part. . .
Navigating Red and Black
In red and black I incurred an expense
You hurdling up over stairs the way you do,
Insisting the summit must be just
Past swirl-bound mist
Can’t you see as I, from the base, do—
The best climbs lack steps entirely.
To make one’s own way
Toward sunlight patches
To uncover souls in places where we thought only fog existed
Along the cone-covered way we wander
To disentangle names
from numbers corralled
To ignite all finely-kept balance sheets
This is the path we are meant to stumble upwards
Side-by-side navigating the misty curtain split in two,
Top to bottom
Seven times forgive
These gypsy tendencies unaccounted for
The ones tensioned between red and black
Congratulations winners! Thanks to everyone who submitted, and to our guest judge, Arlin Migliazzo!
Arlin C. Migliazzo is professor of history at Whitworth University where he has taught since 1983. He received the B.A. from Biola College (1974), his M.A. from Northern Arizona University (1975), and the Ph.D. from Washington State University (1982). His publications include essays and articles on ethnic studies, the Pacific Northwest, colonial South Carolina, church-related higher education, the history of evangelicalism, and comparative democratic development. He has also published some of his poetry in Script, the Whitworth University literary journal.