Jon Thompson Poetry Prize Winners

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2007, All Rights Reserved

Each year the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable sponsors The Jon Thompson Poetry Contest at Lee Burneson Middle School in Westlake as part of the school’s annual “Civil War Days” event. (See more on Burneson Middle School’s “Civil War Days.”) The contest is named in honor of Language Arts teacher (and past CCWRT president) Jon Thompson, who devoted over 35 years to the students of Lee Burneson before retiring in 2006.

The Widow

Those entering the poetry contest are asked to consider a picture called “The Widow” showing a woman in black mourning garb kneeling next to the headstone of a Confederate soldier while a ghostly image of the dead soldier hovers next to her offering quiet solace.

Over 2,000 poems have been entered in the contest since its inception. This page includes the winning entries from some of the past contests.


Note: As in 2008, the judges again selected three winners due to the exceptional quality of this year’s submissions.

The Widow

What hath death brought today?
The mourning of one soul not far away
From the gruesome grounds of many a lost battle.

One by one
The brave soldiers leave their earthly lives,
Never to be seen again,
For they close the door on hate and war,
To open another,
Life’s true reward.

Yet one lonesome cry
Still echoes in the wind,
“My wife, my dear, not yet shall I depart from here.”

Yes, all but one soul
Take this journey,
For all but one,
Their missions are done.

Now this one soul,
His mission not done,
Slowly ascends upon his old town.

But the town is abandoned,
The townspeople fled,
All the townspeople,
Yes, all but one.

She silently walks
Down the quiet street,
Never expecting the one
She’s soon to meet.

At last she arrives,
To a place much despised,
A place where the fallen
Are laid to rest.

And as she kneels
Before her late husband ‘s grave,
A hand she feels,
His words she hears.

“My wife, my dear,
Forgiveness is all I beg,
Forgiveness for the times
I never listened to what you said.”

Without wasting a breath,
She quickly replies,
“Forgiveness you ask,
Forgiveness I give,
Goodbye for evermore,
My friend.”

And with that
The one soul breathes
A sigh of relief…

Forgiveness he receives,
His mission done,
All that is left
Is to follow
His fellow soldiers

- Hannah Braun
The Widow

She longs to hold him
She says he's in a better place,
his suffering, over
Now she is left to suffer
Her tears, drop like rain
Her soul, cloaked by sorrow
Her happiness, only a fairytale
A "once upon a time"
Without a "happy ever after"
She herself a shattered window
Leaving all to see in
Pieces missing from her whole
She falls to her knees
The feeling of the coldest winter
Her tears endless as the Mississippi
Alone in the state of emptiness
Her eyes closed shut
A whisper follows the silence
Saying please don't cry
She feels the embrace
Of the one she used to know
She cries more,
Saying "I love You"
His touch reminds her
The times they had,
The times they lost,
His voice lingers in the air,
With his last words
Whispering, "I love you still,"
"And forever will."

- Tyler Cho


Note: Due to the exceptional quality of the submissions, the judges selected three winners in 2008.

Not Coming Home

The somber silence of death
over the battlefield
where brothers fought each other,
and died, never to come home.

The ghosts of those who fell
never to be calmed
standing next to the saddened widow,
who forever shall be alone.

The North against the South
neighbor against neighbor
the battlefield and bodies
remembered by the gravestone.

The horror of those years
not wanting to be remembered
and needing to be honored
but through the dark the light shone.

Brother against Brother
families torn apart
the brave in the Civil War
never to come home.

- Phil Papajcik
The Widow

I kneel here, the grass cool and wet
Soaked from tears of grief and fret.

As the sun slowly sets in the southern sky
I feel your spirit pass me by.

As darkness draws nearer, gray and cold
I sense your presence warm and bold.

Yet I sob from my heart, my soul and eye
I know you live, you did not die.

As I kneel here mourning and long for death
I feel your embrace and warming breath.

You went two weeks that seemed two years
Your debt I now return with tears.

When they stole your life, they stole my breath
Life is now an everlasting death.

Without you, there is no life in me
So I wait for death to set me free.

- Abigail Kane
Widow Poem

For it has struck again
The dreadful death raven
Bringing Hopelessness, Sadness, and loneliness
Killing all men in sight
Bringing them all to an early grave
Wives, Mothers, and Sisters all weep
All have lost one, once loved
War is what summons the death raven
Once here it is here to stay
Killing all men in sight
Waiting until one falls
Then the raven strikes with full force
Killing all men in sight
perched up in that tall oak tree
Scanning and watching the horizon
Seeing woman come in widows weeds
Nodding slowly to himself
The raven quietly flies away
Waiting for the call of war once again
Waiting to kill all men in sight

- Dennis E. DiFranco 


Sadness and Sorrow

Teardrops of sadness fall.
Shattering the peace.
Black clouds that hung
Above rivers of sorrow

Two ribbons that could not be tied.
A ribbon of blue and a ribbon of gray
Seeds of cotton flying through silent winds.
Gray smoke like a dispersed fog.

Roads that were once connected,
Are now broken compromises.
Fragile birds once trapped in the dark Now
spread their wings and fly to the light.

But somewhere beyond,
Beyond the silhouettes of sunsets,
Shines a ray of hope.
Waiting to rise in the morning sunrise.

- Greeshma Allareddy


The Widow

There he lies, may he rest in peace,
As his wife looks over and quietly weeps.

Her heart is torn, as it will be forever,
While she yearns to remember their times together.

She peacefully sits and tries to be strong,
And thinks to herself how war is so wrong.

She solemnly cries and misses him dear,
“My, how I wish my loved one were here.”

But it is all over, what else can be said?
Oh how she wishes her husband weren’t dead.

She longs to hear his whisper in her ear,
And suddenly feels that his spirit is near.

He kneels down besides her and holds her close,
Yet she cannot feel it for he is just a ghost.

There he lies, may he rest in peace,
As his wife looks over and quietly weeps.

- Marie-Andrée Belzile



Mourning over the once new born child
Mourning over the little boy she saw grow up
Mourning over the boy she saw become a man

Mourning over the young man she saw walk away from home
Mourning over the young man she hoped to see
alive and well over her death bed
Mourning over the young man she hoped would
have a loving family like his father

Mourning over the young man she saw go off to war
Mourning over the senselessness of war
Mourning over the letters she got from the young man

Mourning for the other families that have had this happen
Mourning for the future families that will have this happen

Mourning over the spirit of a dead soldier
Mourning over the death of her son

- Manda McPheter


The Widow

Here but not here
In my heart always
Causes me to fear
Life without him near.

His cause was gallant
And he, full of life,
No one could guess
The agony and strife.

At first war was bitter
With conditions so bad
Turning men into litter,
And families so sad.

The clashing of swords,
The thunder of guns,
Seeking to end
Our husbands and sons.

The bullets sped at him
So fast he couldn’t see
The one who took
My husband from me.

My beloved husband
Here…but not here
Lies underground, but
His spirit is near.

- Lisa Pogue