Judges Angela Alaimo O’Donnell James Sale . OVERALL WINNER . Papa’s Commedia by Nicholas Walz That was hellish—the hulking chopper plunging Through the top: the battered fuselage yawed, Dipped, and dove, while like a lunging weed-eater, The stuttering, feckless blade chawed the trees. There’s no war, nor downed helicopter now. Your trim garden lies well-kept and quiet. And He unworks with care your proud-strained brow. With gentling hand, He plucks out every let. Oh this will be bliss! Your soldier’s soul by Christ’s Word kissed, your lissome arms re-fleshed like His, Your wrist aglist with shrapnel scars, while Christ, Your God and Gardener, takes you up as His. So rest, Christian, beneath His wings; speak cor ad cor. And be Papa then, a million times more than before. . . POST-COLLEGE WINNER . Satan’s Soliloquy A Terza Rima based on Dante’s Inferno by James A. Tweedie Take heed, O sinner. Mock me not nor scorn The so-called flames of Hell, for ’tis not fire That shall consume your soul, nor devil’s horn Adorn your once-fair brow, but self-desire And shameless pride that will receive the curse Of living death within the chilblained mire Of my Inferno’s fallen universe. “Abandon hope, all you who enter here,” Who cross the Styx on Charon’s floating hearse Where Death’s embrace exacts a toll most dear, And unpaid debt for wanton sin comes due. Yet death is not the only fate to fear, For living hopelessness is bitter, too. To spend eternity and be resigned To bear the heavy weight of things that you Once coveted and what were once defined By worldly minds as valued, well-won pleasure, But now in lower circles are assigned As punishment in place of greater treasure That Saints and Martyrs have in turn received In Paradise with joy beyond all measure. While those whom I have tempted and deceived— Whose souls have been corrupted to the core, Who still embrace the lies they have believed— Will suffer for my fall forevermore, As I, with triune head, devour the three Who each betrayed the love they’d had before. With wings stretched forth in search of liberty I beat the air in vain—bereft, forlorn— And bind myself for all eternity. . . UNDERGRADUATE & GRADUATE STUDENTS WINNER . Silver Fire by Gail Kathleen Jardine One staggers at the height, the first vast glance up slate-gray peaks, a citadel of stone uncleft by human hands. Then baser dread: not even death makes this a place to stop, one must trudge on. So climb, don’t sink entrenched in the damnation of despair, climb on until it’s work that’s staggered you. But air, at least there’s that, so much fresh air to gasp; something brisk about walking without the cloak of conceit, something tart in the sunlight, is it cold or hot? Sharp, definitely: living, life flaming itself clear of shame: May we be guided in this long ascent until our dust dissolves into the stars. . . HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WINNER . Stars by Jillian Bober First is a place full of darkness and sin; All souls here are caged by disordered desire. Lamenting and screaming create a vast din— Lucifer rules in this realm filled with mire But though darkness tries, the light it can’t bind. Even when you can’t see them, the stars will still shine. Mountain looms high, it’s a treacherous way. Every soul here seeks to be purified. None of them now in this place want to stay, Desiring to enter the gate that’s not wide. Higher you tread, seeking pure light to find. Though far out of reach, the stars will still shine. Reach the top of the mountain, the beauty reveals Invincible saints, who for Him are afire. Swiftly your wounds and scars all are healed, Encountering the face of the End of desire. Standing this close, the light nearly blinds— While eternity reigns, the stars will still shine. . .