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Newsday’s 2016 garden poetry contest winners

Newsday's first place poetry contest winner Narges Rothermel

Newsday's first place poetry contest winner Narges Rothermel in her Levittown garden. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Ordinarily, it would be cliché, but there’s no better place for red roses and blue violets than in my annual garden poetry contest.

Scores of readers took my challenge, reflected on their gardens and shared their original poetry. Roses and violets made appearances, of course, as did insects, bad backs and the joy of basking in the sun with dirty fingernails.

I enjoyed reading all of them, and selecting a winner was fun, but difficult.

Here are my favorites.

First place: Narges Rothermel, Levittown

My therapy
I hush the spewed harsh-words of politicians
veil ugly headlines of killings and violence
subdue the anger and disappointments of the day,
take refuge in my garden, the only place
I can take the unwanted weeds out,
cut the thorns, turn the dry-hard-soil to soft bed
for flowers and herbs and calm my nerves.

Second place: Phyllis Montuoro, East Rockaway
When trouble seems to taunt my mind, in the garden, peace I find.
The birds, bees, trees, upon my knees, my worries fly into the sky.
Everything forgotten, with beauty and color all around me.
The quiet soft sound of wind, with arthritic hands in pain
My beautiful garden keeps me sane.

Third place: Charlotte DeSimone, Oakdale
I Garden Not For Myself
I garden not for myself, but for everyone else.
For the drivers who go by, the owl and his cry, pretty flowers cheer the butterflies.
When people have bad days, the bright colors make them celebrate, which puts a smile on my face.
The bugs would sing and rejoice, if they had a voice, and the birds will fly, higher than high, the sun will shine, the clouds will recline, and all because I garden not for myself, but for everyone else.


Why Do I Garden?
Pat Barker, Uniondale
Digging in the soil cleanses my soul;
Removes my anxieties, sorrows, and fears.
Waiting for buds to open teaches me patience;
Restores my faith in the future.
Seeing new growth lifts my spirits;
Gives me hope for the earth.

The Gardener at Rest
Sharon Dockweiler, Bethpage
Phantom steam rises as the heat of May’s sun bakes the April-rain-soaked earth.
I sit upon my cushioned milk crate and sink my naked toes into the loamy soil.
Above, the newly unfurled leaves shake out their wrinkles and whisper in the wind.
The huge old nanny maple creaks to hear new life again,
And I wonder just how deep her roots go down.
Can I dig my feet into this soil and sit here, quiet, swaying in the breeze
And live content, as do the trees?

For My Father The Gardener
J R Turek, East Meadow
A last breath of winter blown out by spring breeze,
outside at last — no coat or scarf and no garden gloves as I dig in,
turn soil in bare hands, kneel in worship of rose leaflets, buds a glimmer
in the eye of mid-May, trim daffodil leaves, snip tulip stems, thank them
for their spring pageant. Clocks stop when I’m in my garden, peace
and tranquillity dig a hole for grief, I bury it long enough to revel
in the growth of something planted in your honor.


Jonathan and Elisha May, Shoreham
10 hours a week on the L.I.E.
Weekends are spent in the garden on my knees
Go in your backyard
and enjoy the view
Take care of the earth
and it will take care of you

Gardening Solace
Jane Shelley, Wantagh
Creatively relieving stress, while exercising, too,
What better way than to spend my time
Improving on the view?
There are no worries in my garden,
It’s just a place to play,
So I dig and plant, clip and weed,
While enjoying my calm in the day.

All the reasons why I love to garden
Eileen Melia Hession, Long Beach

The flowers look pretty and oh! How they smell!
The veggies I grow will help me eat well,
My body will ache with that good kind of hurt,
But mostly I just like to play in the dirt.

Beverly Kotch, Merrick
My garden is where I find peace and quiet
my haven, safe from family demands
I know they fear I’ll ask their help if they disturb me

Maureen Hadzick-Spisak, Huntington Station
I fancy myself an artist.
A patch of dirt, my canvas
A trowel and shovel, my brush.
A palette of lavender, a pot of sage.
I weed, I water, I wait
The earth becomes my studio
A garden I create.

Way too tall houseplant
Paul Boltax, Great Neck
Can someone pick it up before. It
Goes to next floor?

Gardening explained
Margaret Hanan, Rockville Centre
Some say it’s a spell, a hex or a curse
But I have a feeling it’s good Mother Earth.
She lured me with colors and scents that are sweet
Secretly wishing and hoping I’d meet
The man of my dreams, my new boyfriend Peat
Together we dig, we plant and we cuss
But frankly, who cares? It’s just between us.

Vincent Kish, Baldwin
Back when I lived in Brooklyn, I had a window box.
It was filled with rosemary, snapdragons, and some phlox.
Then I moved out to the Island and a garden full of weeds.
I pull them up on weekends, and try to plant some seeds.
My back is bent, my knees do hurt, each muscle seems to strain.
And now I think of good old days, when only that window had a pane.

Why Do I Garden?
Elaine Anne Pasquali, Dix Hills
Why do I garden? Let me explain away
It fills up my life; it fills up my day
I get to plant, water and weed
whenever I embed the tiniest seed
If I brag, please beg my pardon
for I take pride in my garden

Eleanor Pannenbacker, Manorville
I have a confession
I have an obsession
It’s flowers I love
From pansies to foxglove
I seed and I weed and I constantly toil
I’ll see you tomorrow
I’m working the soil!

Time In Bloom
Megan Dausch, Farmingdale
I transplant tiny bells; smooth the earth tenderly
Let my fingertips plant seeds of dreams alongside Lily of the Valley.
Each breath of rain-soaked earth is a waft of tradition.
These blossoms lined walkways for my mother and for my grandmother.
I prune and overturn and water, So that my work becomes tangible;
I touch the baby-soft buds, smell the scents that ring into the air.
Through my garden, clippings from the past and newly planted seeds let the present bloom.

Dumb Green Thumb
Gladys Masucci, Copiague
Mother Nature sheds a tear,
When I prepare my gardening gear.
This spring I saw her frosty frown
My tulip bulbs were upside down!
Mistakes galore! I seek her pardon,
Then I plod on — I LOVE my garden!!

Myra Lavie, Wantagh
Work, work, the warm sunny fall day beckons me
Hurry, hurry, so much to do
Prune, rake, feed, plant and weed
Winter’s snow puts all outdoors to sleep
Spring follows in all its splendor
No, no, it’s not work, it’s the greatest pleasure

Show, Don’t Tell
Kathy Levine, Long Beach
“Why do you garden?” my young daughter asked me.
“Sorry, can’t explain it. You’ll just have to see.”
I gave her some seeds. She planted them well. Sprinkled
them with water, feeling curious. I could tell.
We watched and we waited, day after day. And finally the
answer came her way.
“Look at the sunflower you helped to create. It’s part of a
miracle. Doesn’t that feel great?”
She nodded her head and admired the view.
Then said, “Mom, I want to be a gardener, too.”

Planting Memories
Terri Donahue, Center Moriches
I always love to sow a garden of beautiful flowers
Pulling weeds from the soil, in the heat, for hours
Then my grandkids came along and now we spend time
Naming each flower and eating fruit off the vine
When my granddaughter begged her mom for some seeds
To grow her own garden, she was down on her knees
Then I realized I was planting some sweet memories

Debra North, East Meadow
Mother’s Day was spent with Mom
The other days somehow got gone
Weekend friends came by with wine
But the Garden always on my mind —
Circle on the calendar
Pick up bag of horse manure
Can’t wait to get out the door and plant a line . . .

Anne Cognato, Deer Park
Winds whisper secrets as leaves float and flowers sway.
Branches rustle as birds twit and butterflies flit.
Dirt under my fingernails as weeds are yanked.
The worries of the day are gone.

Anne M. Ehmann, Merrick
Flawlessly trimmed and dressed like perennial princesses,
surrounded and led by an entourage of brilliant colors.
A focal point of resplendent beauty right in my backyard
The sun-draped days of gentle toiling, loving labor, in concert
with sweet falling rain manifested this floral reckoning.
A bouquet of loveliness and grace that reflects back, you see,
the vast infinite potential that resides in you and me.

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