Experienced Or Beginner, Every Poet Is A Winner

Experienced Or Beginner, Every Poet Is A Winner


About two weeks ago, we told you all about Sunshine’s Annual Poetry Contest spearheaded by Jerry Schmalenberger, a resident at Quail Lodge in Antioch, California. Well, to leave you hanging without sharing the results would be like reading one of Shakespeare’s sonnets without the final couplet. So here’s what went down, starting with Jerry’s assessment of the participation and competition:

“We had a really good turnout. The quality of the poems received showed there are very thoughtful people living in our facilities. No doubt this activity is therapeutic as well as interesting. I believe poetry is the music of the soul and we sang well.”

Jerry, his wife Carol and Sara Hallam, Life Enrichment Director at Quail Lodge reviewed 21 entries from Sunshine residents from across the country, 11 of which – not surprisingly – came from Jerry’s fellow poetry lovers at Quail Lodge. But the 1st Place winner was none other than Jean Kirkpatrick from Waterford Terrace, who had this to say about her inspiration:

“When you write any poem, you are inspired by something that happened in front of you. I was sitting on the bus looking out the window and noticed an older man flagging us down. He got on the bus and could’ve sat in any of the empty seats, yet he decided to sit next to me. The entire ride we didn’t speak. But once I got home, I kept seeing him in my head. So I sat and wrote about him.”

Here’s Jean’s lovely and thoughtful poem:

A Gentle Encounter

At the Palm Street stop
he flagged us down with a white
handkerchief above his white head.

Air brakes exhaled
in the dust
as the doors parted.

He dismissed the empty
forward seats
and shuffled along the aisle.

I met his eyes,
the same soft blue
as his sweater.

We sat side by side,
comfortable strangers
drawn by need.

He stroked his knees
with well-tended hands and chuckled
at some private thought.

In a string bag
at his feet
a chess board waited.

At the Senior Center
he left the bus, and I put my hand
on the vacant seat beside me.

And murmured a prayer,
somebody loved
this old man.

Taking 2nd Place was Quail Lodge resident Sasha Johnson, who chose to reflect on her childhood home.

Home on the Hill

The sun rises and sets on our little home on the hill.
We grow, we groan, we laugh and we love.
We gawk, we gasp, we learn and we live,
On our little home on the hill.

For here is where we shall stay when dawn turns to day,
On our little home on the hill,
Where our great grandchildren can come to play.

We greet, we grin, we listen and we lecture.
We graze, we gather, we lay and we linger,
On our little home on the hill.

The sun rises and sets on our little home on the hill,
Where we live with great company and enjoy each day.

Our 3rd Place winner also wrote a poem about home. But rather than reminisce about an old home, Quail Lodge resident, Phyllis Martin, was inspired to muse about finding her new one.

A New Home to Love

When my husband died and I was living alone
Most of my social life existed by phone.
My adult children were busy with their children and spouses
And working their jobs and keeping up houses.

So I said to myself that something had to be done
To put a little spice in my life and have some fun.
So I jumped in the car and away I flew
To look at retirement homes and found quite a few.

I came upon Quail Lodge and liked what I saw
So I returned home and gave them a call.
I had a tour and like it even more
So I gave them a deposit before going out the door.

They gave me the keys and a welcome mat
And I moved in with my dog and cat.
I settled in and got acquainted quite soon
And had new friends before noon.

The activities are so many to enjoy or play
And they keep us entertained every single day.
I like the management and employees, too
And the wait-persons are very helpful it’s true.

The menus are perfect with delicious food
To make us content and put in a good mood.
So to end my story of living in the slow land
I will repeat many times that I can’t complain.

I thank all the powers-that-be
For my new friends and family.
I thank the good Lord up above
For helping me find my new home to love.

As you can tell from Phyllis’s clever style, she knows a thing or two about telling a story in rhyme.

“I write poetry for fun and my entertainment,” she said. “I have been writing poetry on and off all my life, but this was the first contest that in which I entered my writings. I am thrilled that my poem was chosen!”

We too are thrilled that many residents like Phyllis truly love their Sunshine Retirement communities. And we’re delighted that they have a wonderful avenue to express it.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, May, 2018.

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