Bougainvillea | Kerry Tepperman Campbell



Kerry Tepperman Campbell of San Anselmo, CA has won the 42nd New Millennium Poetry Prize for “Bougainvillea.”

She will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.

Our Editor Emeritus, Don Williams, was moved nearly to tears the first time he read this fine poem. Its lines evoke the lushness and possibility of youth and remind the reader that eventually the garden within each of us must return to the earth. –NMW


by Kerry Tepperman Campbell


A third-story apartment. The wall outside the bedroom window is covered with bougainvillea. Spring in Marseilles. A young woman rearranges her bedroom furniture, placing the bed beneath the window so she can pick bougainvillea without getting out of bed.

Whatever age she is, she will remember this version of herself, naked, embroidered sheets, their well-worn linen skimming over her breasts, her legs forming a diamond as she sits on the bed, the soles of her feet touching, the space between her legs gradually filling with bougainvillea.

As she plucks the wing-like bracts, she remembers a childhood longing, the desire to be the garden. The drooping tulip. The rose in bud. The flaming zinnia. The cotton-candy dianthus. The desire to be the pink, the blue, the pale peach, the green, the ground cover with its star shaped flowers. To be the cypress rising high around the perimeter, whispering, This is where the garden ends.

That desire felt long before she knew ashes could be scattered like stars beneath such trees.


After a dreamy mid-western childhood I’ve lived most of my life in San Francisco. The exception was one rather glamorous year in Dublin, Ireland. I attended Washington University, where I earned a BA in Humanities, and I’ve completed the coursework for an MA in Poetics.

My current writing project is a series of prose poems based on the life of the famous British mutineer Fletcher Christian. I recently traveled by cargo ship to Pitcairn Island, second most remote place on earth, to meet Christian’s descendants.

My work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming in Bitter Oleander, Laurel Review, Patterson Review, Cloudburst, and American Mustard. My first book will be out from Blue Light Press in 2017.

Bougainvillea © 2016 Kerry Tepperman Campbell

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