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.
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 Home. - 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 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