Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest 2021: Winning Poems
This week, we are happy to share the winning poems for our 2021 Morro Bay Estuary Poetry Contest! Many thanks to our winning authors and to everyone who entered this year’s contest. We are grateful to you for sharing your love of words and the Morro Bay estuary. Many thanks to our generous and talented judges, Marnie Parker, Patti Sullivan, and Kevin Patrick Sullivan.
Estuarine 17: Youth Haiku 8-12
By Evelyn Nannie
Student at Family Partnership Charter Middle School
Like yen and like yang
Where two halves become one whole
By Ben Hague
Student at Morro Bay Montessori Family Partnership Charter School
Birds of the sea
Batrays gliding by
soaring deep underwater
Imposing… giant… fish!
Estuarine 17: Youth Haiku 13-17
By Jessica Maguire
Paso Robles High School
Five bright orange arms
a starfish amongst the rocks
hello little one!
Finding Solace: Youth Free Verse 8-12
By Skyler James Elsea
Morro Bay, California
My Happy Place
I like to row my boat
I see lots of cool animals
Fish, otters, crabs, and sharks
It is fun at the estuary
Estuarine 17: Adults (18 and up) Haiku
By Shari Crane Fox
Grass Valley, California
Dusk brushes the bay.
The cry of a Short-eared Owl—
willow thicket hush.
By Adam Miller
San Luis Obispo, California
The pelican glides
Indolent pond turtles sun
An oak leaf flutters
By Iris Yu
Daly City, California
Take a beach snapshot—
it’s never the same thing twice.
But waves come again.
Finding Solace: Adults (18 and up) Free Verse
By Monica Stillman
Avila Beach, California
Walking the Shore
I have missed you this past year
I have carried on for you, knowing
you would not approve of me
sitting in the dark in sorrow
And so I walked the shore –
watching larger, solitary birds
lift on kite-like wings and fly to sea
while crowds of smaller birds remained
scurrying to and fro with the waterline,
gleaning, moving together in one fluid form
On warm days I removed my shoes
to trace the rippled sands to where
the currents lift them, rolling,
grain by grain, and carry them away
Or walked toward land
to where the sand gives way
to softer mud that settles in the quiet
and let it pull my feet as if
to draw me, too, to rest
And I felt compelled to track
the lifeforms hidden
beneath the surface of the water
knobs of kelp, bright eyes
of smooth-skinned seals,
otters’ furry faces and busy hands
These creatures reminded me
of you, how I have carried you
with me everywhere,
and you should picture me,
when you do,
walking at the shore
By Norma Wightman
Morro Bay, California
Afloat on a King Tide
Paddles dip effortlessly;
hulls reflect silhouettes
on silver-surfaced water.
Tide carries us toward
avocets, godwits, dunlins,
and tiny sandpipers sardined
on fast-disappearing ridges
of pickleweed as the king
We relax to the slow incoming
waters, revel in nature
as two bald eagles wing
overhead, circling a banquet
of shorebirds. Splash!
America’s symbol of majesty
lands on a snag clutching a
coot in golden talons. Mud hen
is its common name, but this
eagle lacks discriminating taste,
shears off the breast with
scimitar-sharp claws, discards
the rest to a waiting gull.
We paddle on as gray clouds
threaten; roil from silver
to charcoal. One blue slot
of sky remains amid the clouds.
Subdued light darkens
nature’s drama as we idle
on a changing tide
By Sally B. Demarest
Los Osos, California
After sheltering at home
For months, I decide to kayak.
I launch from the blue pier,
Staying six feet away
From other people as I drag my white boat
To the water.
I point the nose towards Shark Inlet,
The watery cul-de-sac
At the Southern-most tip
Of Morro Bay.
I have heard leopard sharks live there.
I think how much I would like to see one
In the wild.
The paddling pinches my back.
It seems sitting at the computer so much—
Teaching, grading, Zooming—
Has hunched my neck, strained my shoulders,
But I keep going, staying near the shore,
Peering into grasses, trying to glimpse
A fish or a bird.
Then I reach the inlet
where it sits in the wind shadow
of the dunes.
Still as a mirror, it’s like a different body of water
In the silence, I can hear each drop of water
That drips from the tips
of my paddles.
A product of my time,
I pull my phone from my pocket to take
A few photos. I think about how
I will post a picture, crafting the clever caption:
“Now, this is social distancing!”
But this doesn’t feel like distancing; it feels like
Drawing near. After months
Of staying away from people and places,
Here, in Shark Inlet, I get as close
As I can.
Estuary Program note: The poem, “Communion,” alludes to the experience of feeling emotional and intellectual closeness to the bay and its wildlife while enjoying time on the water. We encourage this! However, we do not encourage physical proximity to wildlife–including both plants and animals. To stay safe and avoid harm to wildlife, please keep your distance. If a bird, otter, seal, or any other animal looks up to watch you, you’re too close. For more information, check out this blog on responsible wildlife viewing by Gena Bentall of Sea Otter Savvy.
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