Thanks to everyone who courageously shared their work with us! We received entries that were whimsical as well as touching, in a wide range of styles and lengths. After many hours of reading and rating each poem, Daeus and Cindy made their decisions. The results were close, because they saw potential in several of the pieces, and we hope that will encourage you to compete in future contests. For now, however, please join us in extending congratulations to the finalists!
First Place: “Still” by Courtney Seybold
The skies were always darkening—
If not always? Well, long enough.
The sun, that strange too-happy being
Played its deep, defeated bluff.
A bright, unnerving envelope,
Ripped open in a crowning shock,
Scattered me in cowered corners:
A plant beneath the lifted rock.
But still You circled closer
And met my thorns with love.
Not the kind that knows itself
And pities from above;
Rather that which, unaware,
Spreads like a breath of wind,
Touching almost carelessly
With life that left me pinned.
So full You did not notice
A few drops spilled or fallen,
Causing earthquakes for the small things
Who find holes or cracks to crawl in.
I was afraid to take them, so
I counted hours and glances,
Sure that all good things will end,
And there aren’t second chances.
Even as I was I thought,
With half a glimpse and smile,
Why not then? Why shouldn’t I
Be happy, blessed, here for a while?
But I was rueful, watching,
When I gave in to You.
I thought You’d have to notice
How undeserved I grew.
Then it happened out of nowhere,
Just like proverbial March—
Sudden, and yet I should have known
Heat had lost its skill to parch,
But only in my hindsight view.
The sun broke out upon me,
Glaring, wrong, and wonderful, new;
There I stood, exposed, and free.
I, in this bare-faced tremor,
Met You with bated breath,
Waiting as one waits for love,
Or as one waits for death.
And You still loved me.
You loved me just as fully then,
Even knowing everything;
No blind spots for excuses now,
You wanted me notwithstanding.
So is it any wonder, dear,
That my whole world is broken?
I take and take so greedily
Things I could not dare to win?
Hungry as I’ve gone for years,
Now without conserving,
Ravaged and insatiable,
Regardless of what I ask,
The answer doesn’t change,
And even when I doubt it,
It’s me, and not Your range.
Fear is for those who don’t know love,
Or each other adequate,
To give themselves so shamelessly,
To receive, and less to sate.
But if You ever wonder, know:
This was my life before You.
You are my life now complete.
I’d gladly spill myself out whole—
Death itself would be so sweet.
There’s no other compliment
I can give but living,
Dying in the way You wish,
For You still love me.
Meet the Author
Courtney Seybold wrote poetry as soon as she knew what it was, filled shelves with notebooks full of stories, poems, and silly thoughts that preserve all the embarrassment of her teenage years, and has read more than 700 books and counting. She’s married, has five kids, homeschools, and still tries to sneak as much writing and reading into her days as she can.
Second Place: “On Crying in the Library” by Chloe L. DuBois
Every book—what does it take?
Years of tears and fears, mistakes.
Daydreams drenched in crimson ink.
Rotting drafts that start to stink.
Piles of paper, torn and ripped.
Pencils missing pointed tips.
Laptops smashed, their keyboards bent,
“Enter” cracked from pressing “Sent.”
Scathing words scrawled left and right,
Sending confidence to flight.
Loads of letters screaming, “No.
There’s no talent here to show.”
This is the life I choose to live.
Every word I have to give—
Writhing, wasted on the ground,
Syllables all strewn around.
Yet again, I long to ask,
How have others met the task?
Why do published books exist?
Do those authors’ lives consist
Of crumpled pages, blurry lines,
Plodding prose, and muddled minds?
I wonder if it’s only me;
Doubts decay my destiny.
Published writer, please don’t hide.
Heal my heart and pop my pride.
You were once a dreamer too,
Dreaming of the day when you
Would find your novels on a shelf,
Not so different from myself.
Stories slam against my brain,
Words are woven in my veins,
Clotting slowly, scared to flow,
As my nightmares dare to grow.
Guide me, grow me,
Shape me, show me,
Show me how to wield my pen.
Show me how to love again.
Meet the Author
Chloe L. DuBois is a military brat, aspiring author, and daughter of the King on a quest to further His kingdom through her stories. She’s loved words ever since she can remember, but only when she was seven did she first pick up a pen and begin scribbling her own. Her favorite things to write about include long-lost royalty, swashbuckling sword fights, family bonds, and sacrifice. One day she wants to blog for discouraged authors who fight to remember why their stories are worth it. For now, though, she hopes her poem “On Crying in the Library” will encourage others with struggles similar to hers. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her reading C. S. Lewis, hoarding notebooks, and dreaming of forests far away.
Third Place: “Moonlight Wishes” by Katelynn Richardson
The moon still rests now as she did then:
a glowing, speckled orb
cradled in a nest of royal blue,
silent among whispers of shifting dew.
She reigns the night,
reflecting light for sleeping souls,
small hearts swaddled in cotton bedsheets
who do not know nor care
how they’ve happened upon such peace,
or what hands could have molded
a pearl as precious as they behold.
They’re content to count stars scattered by their Big Dipper,
call on those for whom they’ve crafted names,
following as they have through the ages,
and as they now do in streetlight-flooded valleys,
navigating by new constellations installed over alleys.
Most think only of how strange it must be
to once look down on peasants and palaces,
temples and tombs,
and now see skyscrapers and cell towers,
dazzling neon lights—a city’s crowning jewel—
humanity’s triumph on display,
taming the untamable,
expanses of desert filled with billboards,
calling out to the lonely traveler
parched for a drink.
(same as he did, admittedly, in the ancient days)
for people peddling answers,
who will press whiskey to cracking lips,
preach diluted dreams to hold him till morning.
Oh! But they’ve nearly figured it out now, Reason interjects.
What with the advances in medicine and computer modeling…
See, he’s your standard modern man.
Sensible, secure, a budding success.
Never one to halt progress
by dragging skeletons out of hiding,
demanding they give an account.
He has pride in his generation.
What they’ve made of themselves!
These eager, pitiful primates,
conquering forces, forging civility
in an epic war of life over probability.
Even as he exits the highway,
pulls up on the coast at twilight,
he’s determined to bury—what is it—
a twinge of desire?
A last-ditch effort to survive,
to call help with a smoke-signal fire?
He’s a learned man, but still he can’t shake the sense
that each grain of sand is another nail in his coffin.
But oh! Look at the way Man stands alone,
the armor-clad knight challenging Mother Nature’s rule.
as bare feet meet bare earth,
sand slides between toes.
He watches the sunrise and feels numb.
He wades in frothy ocean foams and thinks of wishes forsaken,
thrown back like restless sunbeams.
What can it be but aesthetics?
And what are aesthetics, except a muddled mix of atoms, just like he?
Only by chance’s wicked humor should he stand in control while dirt sits dormant.
A tragic case, he muses,
to know nothing of himself,
to come away empty,
to disbelieve the enlightened ideals
he’s taught everyone else.
Who but he could watch a crescent moon glow
and remain blind to his perilous plight,
rejecting wisdom placed in plain sight?
Who but he could stand on the shoreline
and not perceive the tides of time
have shifted the same since the first poet’s rhyme?
Who but he could know so much of stars
and not see himself clearer,
as a creature humbled before his Creator?
Meet the Author
Katelynn has been spellbound by language ever since she was young. She currently studies as an English major at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which allows her to spend hours on end doing her favorite thing—reading. She’ll read anything she can get her hands on, but she especially enjoys biographies and historical fiction (along with anything by Jane Austen or C. S. Lewis).
You can find her sharing book reviews, original poetry, life adventures, and other writing-related thoughts on her blog, StoriesandStarlight.com. You can also find her writing on WeekdayWalk.com, a website she started to help equip Christian teens and young adults with the confidence to live faithfully each day through discussions on theology, apologetics, and culture.
Brianna Storm Hilvety is passionate about helping writers achieve their aspirations to captivate and change the world through fiction. At Story Embers, she juggles multiple roles—founding board member, managing editor, and graphics director. She oversees the entire publishing department and its personnel, ensuring that content is processed, edited, scheduled, and posted on the site weekly, as well as superintends the creation of visual elements and organizes writing contests.
In addition to her ongoing work at SE, she’s served a variety of authors, publishers, and writers organizations, such as Gilead Publishing, Castle Gate Press, and Kingdom Pen. Her professional affiliations include gold membership at The Christian PEN, editing certifications from The PEN Institute, and copyediting and proofreading expertise at the Christian Editor Connection.