County Line Magazine's Upper East Side of Texas 2013 Poetry Winning Entries


A couple of “firsts” highlight the winners of this year’s County Line Magazine poetry contest, with the first person ever to win in two different age groups and the first person ever to win twice in the high school division.  The annual contest for students and adults in the Upper East Side of Texas began in 2007.

The first first-place winner in two different age groups, winning the high school division in 2010 and the adult division this year, is Autumn Keiss from Sulphur Springs, who went from dark – a poem called “Broken” – to humorous with this year’s winning entry, “Love Bug.”The first two-time winner in the high school division is Courtnee Walls, a senior at Wills Point High School.

One of the judges this year, Judy Rutherford Gottesman, is the only two-time first-place winner in the adult category, winning in 2008 and 2009.  “I love being part of the process, and it is a privilege to hear — so clearly — the unique voice behind every poem submitted,” she said.  Gottesman said she “lives in the spaces between words and lines” and “loves the murmur of poetic rhythm, and the exercise of distilling an experience into an outline holding just enough clues to reveal the mystery and meaning inside.”  In addition to being a poet, she is also a licensed massage therapist, operating at The Old Firehouse in Edom.

The second judge this year was Linda Ayers, a school librarian and children’s author whose poem “Upon Returning from Iraq” was published in the 2011 poetry chapbook, Peace Words, a collection commemorating the United Nations International Day of Peace. She wrote the popular Time Bridge Travelers books and the children’s poetry books, “There’s Something in My Sandwich” and “My Pet Mosquito,” as well as adult poetry.  “I always enjoy reading the entries,” Ayers said. “It does feel a little weird being the one doing the judging rather than the one being judged, though. It was refreshing to find one like Autumn’s ‘Love Bug’ poem that looked at things a bit differently.”

The third judge was contest organizer Tom Geddie, who writes for County Line Magazine and Dallas-based Buddy Magazine and has published 10 books including five volumes of free verse poetry.
After seven years of putting together the County Line Magazine poetry contest, the most rewarding parts of it remain the talent, of course, and, in some cases, getting to know – or feeling like we know – some of the writers who share their souls or indulge in shared moments of whimsy. Or simply, with some of the youngest ones, writing their first poems for a good teacher.

The poems are not just words they write. We see the humanity.

Although we know little about most of the writers, we get to know some of their life stories and we get to keep up with some of them. We miss some of the others that we never hear from again. Their words, sometimes exquisite, almost always heartfelt, stay with us.

We see some of them share the brightness of childhood, the angst of the teen years, and the balance of adults. We are sad for some of their experiences: the problems they face, the problems they overcome. We rejoice in their joy.  We see some of the children just emerging from shells of one sort or another, others who are already recognized, accomplished, and popular as children. We never really know which ones will excel as adults, or how long it might take them. We see the “perfect” ones who silently face real issues, the troubled ones who persevere, and the little ones whose parents get to know them better through these words.

We see, to paraphrase Courtnee Walls’ winning high school poem, the rebels, the dreamers, the lovers, the freaks, and, yes, the normal.
The real people. The young adults who are bitten by the love bug and who try to ignore the pain, the adults who see the garden waiting and those who feel protected and at peace surrounded by winter. The high school students who already want to rise from the ashes, or simply want someone to care. The junior high kids who will never forget a grievous wrong, who hope and sometimes know that life gets better, and the ones who go down broken roads. And the elementary school kids who are ready to energetically face – and save – the world.

We love the talent. We love the people who share their souls and their whimsy. We love the humanity in the words. – Tom Geddie




Love Bug


I have been bit.


I can feel the small puncture marks

on my chest.

I ignore the pain that comes with them.

The bug is now crawling up my arm.

I watch him,


and unafraid. These bugs only bite

one place.

And he’s already bitten me.


Transparent wings,

little body.

We are not strangers

though I grow tired

of the bite.


“Won’t you leave me be” I ask him.

He buzzes at me,

wings flitting back and forth.

The symptoms conjure up a smile

but my hand is moving to smash him

beneath my palm.


“Go bother someone else,” I tell him.

I grow weary of the itch, eager to be rid of it.

“I don’t need you,

you know that, right?”

He flits his wings again,

mocking me, then flies away

leaving a gnawing in my insides.

“You better bite him, too,”

I mumble under my breath,

“Or next time I will smash you.”

Autumn Keiss
Sulphur Springs



The Garden Waits


Forsythia lends its perfume

To odorless camellia blooms,

The paper whites appear at last,

Nodding down the garden path.


At its end, the house still stands,

Crafted by his gentle hands,

Where two had lived contentedly

A quarter of a century.


Elizabeth, with silver hair,

Had cared for him faithfully there,

Until her doing days were done

And he was left to do alone.


He lived his life there day by day,

Until his memory slipped away.

Until he had to leave his home

And leave the garden he had grown.


Now briars twist and weeds invade

The amaryllis beds he made.

Fallen pines from summer’s drought

Like skeletons lie ’round about.


Year after year, pine needles fall –

A prickly blanket over all –

So overgrown and taciturn.

The garden waits for his return.

Jill K. Hobbs











A Winter Day


Gray heavy clouds hang like

wet blankets from the sky.

Bare naked tree branches now

dressed in white coats of snow.

Quiet muffled silvery silence

beckons like a deserted library.

I stick out my tongue to catch

falling snow flakes of winter.

Words spoken in hushed voices

so as not to disturb the solitude.

Life’s frosty breath

hangs in the air frozen in time.

Crunch, crunch, crunch is the only sound

as I walk thru white stillness.

Safely surrounded by white nothingness,

I feel protected and at peace.

Kathy Dodd








My body is stained

Yet regret trickles down me.

Who have I become?


Love is a scapegoat,

Spontaneity but a victim,

And the blame is solely our own


Consciences are buried deep

Throughout our “evil” charade


A state of pure ecstasy

With a side effect of illness


Freaks of nature


Angels within a nightmare?


Rising from ashes


incinerating life


Something so wrong

Fueled with such hate

Yet so perfect and passionate


Who are we?


Rebels? Dreamers? Lovers?

Freaks? Normal?


All are feathers of the

same mythical beast

Courtnee Walls

12th grade, Wills Point



Free Me


I create a small world for me only

And exclude everyone to make me feel lonely.

I was scared of my own personal hell

And in the distance I can hear the broken bells.


I can see the people running with their lighters,

Raging inside, hoping to set out the insane fire.

And out of focus, blurry vision makes you indecisive.

Take out all the crumpled papers and smooth out the creases.


Can you open up the frozen gate?

Save me from my drowning hole before it gets late?

Take me in your strong arms towards somewhere nice.

Promise that you won’t ever look at me and think twice.


If I could just breathe you in

As from my lips falls out your name,

But in the end, everything comes rushing in me

And my eyes fly open and now they can see


I’m still inside my small world, wishing someone would care

Running and fighting my own personal hell

And still drowning all alone in my despair

Realizing nobody’s here to make me feel well.

Brittany Reneau

9th grade, Overton






But I never forgot


He spoke to me

He spoke in anger

He said I would forget

That it was just a waste


Hidden behind his words

Was his implication

He said I was a stupid young girl

That I didn’t deserve all that I had

That I was worthless

Useless in all ways


I sometimes wish that I was there

So I could see what was behind his eyes

Maybe I might have found out why he spoke to me that way

If he really meant it

I think that just hearing his horrid words was enough to change me


I think of these memories often

Staring at my bookshelf

As he spoke into my ear filled
   with anger and depression

I was too young

I could not see what he was attempting

He tried to break me

He still tries

I am always preparing for the next battle

Hoping the war will end soon


He spoke to me

He spoke to me in anger

He told me I would forget

But I never forget

Kaysie Owens

Eighth grade, Nacogdoches




In the Wind


She stood there

In the furious wind alone once again.

She remembered the day in the cold, And she remembered the day in the rain.

Things always got better before they fell apart again.

She remembered when she was happy, Even when life was hopeless life still made sense,

She remembered angels, And how they once seemed so real.

Why would they have wings if they couldn’t fly down to you?

She remembered fairy tales, And how they put so much false faith in a young girl;

Happily ever after never felt so far away.

She remembered the seventeenth night of December, And the look upon his face,

How for a moment everything mistakenly seemed okay.

She remembered laughing; she hadn’t done it in so long.

Everyone around her changed,

Or maybe she was the change all along.

When push comes to shove and end comes to love,

And she had been pushed too far,

She remembered when she hallowed his heart, And the broken promises he made.

She remembered things would someday be better, So she bowed her head and prayed.

Memories are what make her stronger but they are also her weakness,

That lead her into the wind.

Claire Simmons

Eighth grade, Nacogdoches


A Broken Road


I went down a broken road,

A road full of hate and evil.

Why put your child through such pain?

I went down a broken road,

Screaming and fighting every night.

Why hurt me like you did?

Love turned into hate.

Happiness turned into sadness.

And light turned into dark.

You broke the trust.

Mother, I love you.

Daddy, I’ll miss you.

Not a day goes by that I don’t find myself

Walking down the Broken road.

I know to keep everyone

Close and secure.

So they can’t leave me all alone

On the broken road.

Ashley Lynn Faver

Eighth grade, Cushing






Start the Day


I woke up

So tired,

So sleepy.

Thunder being louder than loud!

Lightning shooting across the sky.

Go to eat my breakfast, I said to myself.

Get dressed.

Ready or not here I come here I come.

Toni Wild

Second grade, Royse City




What I Felt Like Last Night


Last night I felt:

Dancy, excited, tired, happy.

In learning time,

hot, wonderful,

and curious about life,

bright, relaxable

space in air


I felt like I’m ready

Jerzy Lobinsky

Second grade, Royse City


Little Fawn


Oh little fawn, bright and shy,

Come, everything will be alright.

Wish I may, wish I might,

you will be safe with me.


Deep out in the woods,

I help animals.

I don’t hurt them.

I love them.


So ride with me on a horse.

I will save you.

Abigail Barker

Third grade, Wills Point


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