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Grand first kiss wins $1000 in Keillor love poem contest

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Like a lot of great poems, the one that won a thousand bucks for Kristal Leebrick ends with (spoiler alert!) a twist.

The Pioneer Press reports that Leebrick's poem, "New year love" was named the winner in Garrison Keillor's Common Good Books second poetry contest. Leebrick read it Sunday night during a celebration of poetry at Macalester College that was hosted by the humorist and public radio host.

The Star Tribune built suspense for the contest earlier this week with the news that Keillor and his fellow poet-judges Patricia Hampl and Tom Hennen had winnowed the 1,100 submissions – "five shopping bags worth," according to Keillor's bookstore blog – to 25 finalists.

Even if you don't fancy the form, Leebrick's non-rhyming narrative, below, will likely give you a nostalgic pang and a smile. An Air Force brat, Leebrick spent part of her childhood in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the setting for her poem.

"I hadn't written a poem for a long time, but when I read about this contest, I thought, 'What the heck. I'm going to do it,'" said Leebrick, a journalist and author. She edits the Park Bugle community newspaper in St. Paul and last December was a visiting author at Keillor's bookstore where she signed copies of her non-fiction book "Dayton's: A Twin Cities Institution."

We're not sure if there's ever been a poem on the BringMeTheNews site, but if not, it's high time. Here's Leebrick's award-winner:


I remember our breath

in the icy air

and how the northern lights gathered

in a haze at the horizon,

spread up past the water tower

then vanished into the dark.

I remember that January night in North Dakota:

We left the dance,

the hoods of our dads’ air force parkas zipped tight,

our bare hands pulled into the coat sleeves.

We ran

into the wind

down the drifting sidewalks of our eighth-grade lives

to the brick-and-clapboard row houses on Spruce Street.

We ducked between buildings

and you pulled me close.

A flickering light from someone’s TV screen.

A kitchen window.

Your fingers tracing my face.

Your hair brushing my eyes.

Your skin, your lips.

My legs.

My heart.

I remember that January night in North Dakota,

but I can’t remember your name.

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