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The Nebraska Writers Guild sponsored its second annual Fur Trade Days Poetry Contest this year, presenting the awards Saturday at the Chadron Public Library.

Pam Vap’s “Items on the Nebraska Homestead, 1889,” won first place. Vapp was able to attend Saturday’s poetry reading and performed her winning piece.

Second place went to Mary Rowin with “Una Mujer Illegal,” and third prize went to Kara Gall’s “The Cynosure of All Observers.” Neither Rowin or Gall were able to attend, but their prize-winning poems were read. All three pieces will be published in the 2018 edition of Voices from the Plains in December.

The poems are also reprinted here:

Items on the Nebraska Homestead, 1889

1. a white lily

with sails of petals

above the pink blush on the weak stem

2. the small wooden trunk lugged

out just this morning

3. the dusty, square box of a farmhouse

leaning precariously and looking

out of place on 160 acres

4. an uncaring, wide horizon

fading to powdery blue

and stretching to who knows where

5. an occasional meadowlark’s whistle breaking

into the July drone of insects

6. the German couple

without their Schätzchen

7. the young woman’s empty hand

lying on

8. the trunk lid covering

9. the baby

Una Mujer Illegal

Her mother mails a package from Mexico.

White cloth is covered in satin-stitched

flowers - red hibiscus, gold copa de oro

orange lantana, carnations and roses.

Framed and hung on a bright yellow wall

near the Virgin of Guadalupe, the colors

of Oaxaca blaze above a kitchen table

in a city in the cold north of the USA.

Citizen children, jobs, a mortgage

all a palimpsest of permanence.

When caught, she will smash the glass,

wrap Mary in flowers. Then, she’ll run.

The Cynosure of All Observers

1845, oil on canvas:

young bride, brown skin

white buckskin dress.

She clutches beads

in one hand

reaches the other

down to a white man’s

open palm.

2013, pixels on screen:

me, a bride, white skin

red silk dress.

I bunch pleats

in one hand

fold the other

into a brown

cupped palm.

When I tell you

my husband

is Indian,

you ask:


or dot?

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