2024 Kim Bridgford Memorial Sonnet Contest Winner

Calling Hours at the Funeral Home by Jean L. Kreiling

He wants to be here—it’s for his Aunt Lou,
who baked him cookies, sent him cards and money,
applauded his good news from first grade through
the senior partnership, and called him honey
to her last day.  But this grim atmosphere
could not be further from Aunt Lou: his nose
detects old carpet, men’s cologne, and fear,
instead of nutmeg, lavender, and rose.
He stays a while—shakes hands and murmurs, tries
not to inhale too much—until he thinks
Aunt Lou would probably have rolled her eyes
and told him Go!  He pulls his coat on, winks  
at Aunt Lou’s portrait, leaves.  Outside, it’s cold;
he sucks in all the air his lungs will hold.

Jean L. Kreiling’s fourth collection of poems, On the Cusp, will be published by Able Muse Press in late 2024. Her work has been awarded the Rhina Espaillat Poetry Prize, the Frost Farm Prize, the Able Muse Write Prize, and three New England Poetry Club prizes, among other honors. Her scholarly essays on the intersections between music and literature appear in several academic journals; she lives on the coast of Massachusetts.

Praise for the winning sonnet, “Calling Hours at the Funeral Home”: 

The successful narrative sonnet is rare. Fourteen lines most often prove too few to house a true “story.” But “Calling Hours at the Funeral Home” is indeed that rare accomplishment. The details about the poem’s visitor, his deceased aunt, and the funeral home setting are not plentiful, but they deliver a novel’s worth of backstory. So when we get to the devastating turn of the last line, we feel like we’re breathing in that frigid air along with a protagonist we’ve spent a few hundred pages with. We feel it in our lungs.

~Dan Albergotti, Judge