Chronicle poetry contest winners
PoetryThis month's theme was 'Harvest'

Chronicle poetry contest winners

Winners of the Chronicle’s poetry contest are: Annie Charlat, Cathleen Cohen and Sholom Cohen.

(Photo by kangbch via Pixabay)
(Photo by kangbch via Pixabay)

The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle thanks all those who submitted poems to its poetry contest. This month’s theme was “Harvest.”

Our judge was award-winning poet Philip Terman. Terman is the author of several full-length and chapbook collections of poems, including “This Crazy Devotion” (Broadstone Books) and “Our Portion: New and Selected Poems, The Torah Garden” (Autumn House Press). His poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Poetry Magazine, The Kenyon Review, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets and 101 Jewish Poets for the Third Millennium. He’s a retired professor of English from Clarion University, where he directed the Spoken Art Reading Series. He is a co-founder of the Chautauqua Writer’s Festival.

Winners of the Chronicle’s poetry contest are: Annie Charlat, Cathleen Cohen and Sholom Cohen. In addition to their poems being published below, each winning poet received a $54 gift card to Pinkser’s Judaica, courtesy of an anonymous donor for whose generosity we are grateful.


We sit in a hut for 40 years,
weaving stories out of arid desert air,
adding them to our people’s patchwork.

Many, many stitches have been skipped.

Will the cloth unravel? The sages ask
between bites of sweet citrus.

No, say their wives, as they hang
freshly washed linens to dry.

Annie Charlat

For R’Micah Weiss and for David

My husband carries an etrog tree
into the house, cradles its spindly stem
and thick leaves that waver
like sails at sea. Who knew

that someone might dream
of nurturing so many saplings
on his city porch – all from seeds?
And in this northern climate?

It seems impossible
yet, what we can assume
about change, about ourselves
must need cultivating.

I touch leaves like palms
that stretch up to scoop light
and it’s wiry, optimistic stem
that holds them.

Oh, how long
must we wait to harvest
the sweet fruit
of its heart?

Cathleen Cohen

Kedoshim: Edge Pledge

A golden field ripe with grain,
Wheat stalks wave in the breeze.
Harvest nears as summer days wane,
G-d’s bounty is ready to please.
Where once were seeds in fresh plowed rows,
A forest of ears now stands.
A visitor sees but hardly knows
The pledge of heart and hands.

Too early to plant and all may be lost.
Too late we may see but a trace.
Rains must come we pray at all cost.
In the end we rely on G-d’s grace.
At harvest time – leave part of the field
For the poor as a gift small in worth.
But we show G-d-s role in providing the yield
By doing His work here on earth.

The farmer and poor each have a share
When peah is left from what’s grown.
The poor takes a portion of food for his care
And the farmer takes the rest as his own.
The whole field’s a gift, he may also decide
Leaving all for the poor in G-d’s praise.
By this act the owner is self-nullified,
Showing G-d in all of his ways.

All of our deeds should be heaven bound,
Though the peah part shows limitation.
But knowing G-d in all we are crowned
When the whole field is our designation.
The total commitment to a G-dly cause
Encompasses one’s whole being.
The connection to G-d goes beyond His laws
No earthly limits concealing.

“For I, the Lord, have never changed”
The prophet Malachi proclaimed.
And you, Bnai Yisroel, will not be estranged
Though acts may have left you ashamed.
“You have not reached the end,” G-d has said.
My harvest laws will connect
Jewish souls to the poor who by peah are fed
From “the desirable land” they perfect.

The edge left uncut for matnot aniyim
A part of tzedakah’s everyday theme
One of the dvorim without shiurim
Like torah study and gemilut chassadim.
Peah means more than some wheat it would seem
Since it shares its gematria with Elokim.
Reveal G-d hidden below is the scheme
A harvest never finished by Yehudim.

Dealing with peah are both poor and owner
Whether whole field or a mere scrap.
The Baal HaBayis is ever our donor
A message from Kedoshim’s rap.

Sholom Cohen

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