Summit Country Day grad wins poetry contest

Bea Wissel is the winner of the annual poetry contest hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Writers League. Her poem, “But Sometimes Magic (Results Not Typical)” won first place. A second poem by Wissel, “Life at the Sea,” captured third place.

Wissel is a graduate of Summit Country Day and continued her education at Boston University.

As well as being a fine young poet, she is an honored playwright. Her first play, a comedy called “Burning the Barn” was performed at Vagabond Theater in Boston, where it was nominated for the prestigious Independent Reviewers of New England award in 2011. 

Her winning poem:

But Sometimes Magic (Results Not Typical)

Reality was bearing down with snapping tooth,

all haunches and hackle. Situation: critically grim.

Prepare yourself, I was told.

Then drove ten hours to say goodbye to you.

Somewhere in Tennessee, I passed the corpse

of a carnival with disbelief.


Out my window:

a Ferris wheel skeleton, rickety spokes

askew, like scavenged bones protruding

against the lurid blue bright day, sloughing

decay, a confectioner dusting rusty flakes over

the candy apple cart and decrepit funnel cake stand.

Beside it, a listing rocket ship used to be emblazoned

with patriotic paint and wide, happy lettering now

indecipherable, half-way expunged,

these remains, seeping into ruin.

The end of magic, I thought.


At the hospital, you looked like shit

and I forgot my promises, I wanted to fling

you from your deathbed and firmly

back into living, you were beeping

like a malfunction, an arcade besieged

and I was worried I might unplug you so instead,

I just asked, did you remember how when I was a kid,

you’d take me to the festival and we’d always ride

either The Scrambler or Pharaoh’s Revenge, rising

giddy above the crowds and scent of roasted

cinnamon drifting on some honky-tonk riff,

the fairground, a whirling kaleidoscope below,

our laughter snatched by the thieving wind?

And the year I was desperate to win the goldfish,

you let me play the ring-toss game until I finally won

even though it was The World’s Most Expensive Goldfish?

I was convinced you smiled at that, but this was clinically doubtful.


Then later, I watched the doctors’ pity turn to wonder and proclaim it

a miracle! when you recovered because in Real Life, the piano

always falls and only a fool persists hoping

for impossible things. But who am I to claim the measure

if possible when here we both sit,

and neither one of us spitting keys?

– Bea Wissel


The third place poem, also by Bea Wissel:

Lilith at the Sea

The ocean is no longer a metaphor.

I have decided this.

From now on, the ocean is just

The ocean.


I have traveled countless miles to stand

Here on the edge of this world

Where water meets sky and desire

Was born on the shell, rising

Pink from the foam.

Venus. Vesuvial. Vital.


The ocean speaks my language:

Wavy, blooming, deadly. A silent grave,

The place where tears go, belly full

Of funny lookin’ fish and questions

No one will ever think to even ask.


I have cast my net wide and found

A great number of things: an old shoe,

Someone’s broken spectacles,

A spoon doubled over—

These are the shrapnel of lives

I hold the pieces in my hand.

The light refracts, the objects blind,

Then meaning is made. Careful now,

Don’t believe your own myth.


I’ve grown weary

Of wickedness and wishing to be

The idea of myself.

And I, seeking wholeness,

Looking out over the sea, have decided

There was nothing ever missing. A perfect

Roundness like a bright, crisp apple, tasting

Faintly of rain, a touch of dirt,

Juices running down the chin.

And all along I was already

What I’d always hoped

To become.

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