Sixth Annual Wild Violet Writing Contest Winners (2008)

Poetry — Second Place

Arlene L. Mandell, a retired English professor, was formerly a public relations executive and writer/editor at Good Housekeeping magazine. She has published more than 400 poems, essays and short stories in newspapers and literary journals, including The New York Times, True Romance and Women's Voices.

In the Hour Before Stars
By Arlene L. Mandell

Terrace at twilight

A woman sits on a narrow terrace, inhaling
         an elusive fragrance base notes of spruce, hemlock,
                  top notes of lilac and wood smoke.

The sky deepens by subtle degrees
          as droplets of midnight blue ink
                    are added by the consummate artist.

Small wavelets, scarcely more than ripples,
        touch the shore with a sound like a slow pulse
                  beating in the cooling air.

With each deep, long breath
         she releases troubled thoughts
                            on soft rills of salt water.

Faint music drifts in with the tide as stars emerge
                  and she drinks deep of lilac
                            and wood smoke.


Judge Eileen M. D'Angelo's comments:

"In the Hour Before Stars" is as delicate a poem as its form and subject matter, from its careful descriptions to the way the repetitive words pull the poem full circle. Like the description of the sky in this poem, everything deepens by subtle degrees.


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