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2016 Student Poetry Contest

Division Winners

 Division I
(grades 3-5)

Flame Tiger
by Gabriella Wang

 You clutch the matchbox in your hand,
And poise it at the ready.
The spindly wooden stick advances,
You flick your wrist just so.
With it comes that stealthy sound,
And springing from a winter’s sleep,
The flame tiger arises.
He reaches out with sneaky paws
To grab at candles passing by.
His tail creeps across the match,
Then you hastily blow him off
And send him to his bedroom.
“You’ve done your job, and now it’s time
For you to take your nap.”
His essence lingers in the air,
And leaves some smoky paw prints.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Gabriella Wang


by Isabel Yates 

They killed my father
Whipped him with a whip of hatred.
Slapped him with the slap of a thousand tears.
I could no longer bear the pain.
I ran.
I thought I was safe but I was caught
thrown into prison like a useless rag doll
left to rot until my future was decided.
I'd be branded and left in the stocks
it didn't matter, nothing mattered anymore.
I lingered in the stocks
watching the brand warming in the skillet
preparing for the satisfying taste of my burnt flesh.
The brand bites into my cheek
melting my flesh
blurring my vision
a wildfire of pain rages through me.
Clinging to my soul, shredding my heart
but leaving its mark
P for Property

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Isabel Yates


Ode To Change
by Grace Davis 

My fickle companion pulls me forward
through a rolling, spinning mess.
You can be as cold as a blizzard’s wind,
or as warm as a mother’s caress.
You wipe your paintbrush of insecurity
across my canvas heart.
Until a masterpiece of character is revealed,
and you, Change, set me apart.
You gift some with the strength of heroes,
but send others to their knees.
You bring about an outcome,
that at first no eye sees.
Like a tapestry of emotions,
you weave through someone’s life.
Strands of love, hope, and joy
mixed with fear, loneliness, and strife.
My life you rearrange.
I love and hate you, Change.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Grace Davis


Division II
(grades 6-7)

She Forgets
by Jamie Muskopf


How old are you? What grade are you in now?
She forgets. It’s a bandit that steals Grandma’s past.
Like a thief, it robs her of her memories.
This persistent robber is continuously looting.
This despicable eraser deletes today, yesterday, decades.
How old are you? What grade are you in now?
She forgets. Her life is perplexing, confusing, overwhelming.
Simple tasks are gargantuan obstacles.
Possessions are lost, broken, misplaced,
and occasionally found as unremembered treasure.
How old are you? What grade are you in now?
She forgets. Often she fails to recall that her parents have passed.
Frequently she forgets that she lives alone.
Some days she believes she still goes to work.
She is unaware that her questions repeat.
She does NOT forget that all this is frightening, lonesome, and sad.
How old are you? What grade are you in now?
She forgets. One day, she will fail to remember who I am.
I dread this impending loss. But we will still love each other even then.
Love is not a memory to be forgotten by the mind,
but an unforgettable sensation of the heart.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Jamie Muskopf


by Shaelyn Mahoney


My shoes leave smudge marks of sorrow, 
as I make my way to the exit.
I hide under my hood, hair falling over my anonymous face.
Shoulders hunched, knees brushing, I shuffle.
All around me kids laugh, sucking any joy from the stuffy air.
Leaving none for me. They brush against me,
And knock me down. I slump to the tiled floor,
Knees hitting with a thud. But no one hears,
Only me. I put my hands on the floor.
It’s cold, but I don’t mind.
I pick myself up and take the steps down, 
my hands grasping the sticky railing.
Outside at last, the big yellow limo lures me in,
And I shuffle hesitantly down the aisle. I sit next to the red-headed girl,
She smiles and my lips curve upward.
Hers is brighter and filled with an energy that I want.
She stands and crawls over me to the girl who beckons her. 
Who I hadn’t seen.
I slump farther down the cracked vinyl, into the darkness of the seat.
I look out the dirty window, and cry,
I am invisible.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Shaelyn Mahoney


Black and Blue
by Kenydi Young


Peering into broken eyes,
A malignant beast stares back at me.
Smoky tendrils, verbal flames,
Emitted by this monstrosity.
Defenseless, pleading for mercy,
Yet fiery fists fly through the air.
Slamming into my fragile face;
Crimson tangling with bitter tears.
Then it spreads, like wildfire.
Inky onyx, midnight blue.
Vandalizing my mangled form,
Gruesome shades of solemn hues.
Shattered bones, and bloody scars
Once given time, eventually heal.
But broken hearts, memories–
Disturbingly daunting to steal.
Scariest of all, these nightmares exist–
In reality– not just dreams.
Lurking, disguised, they capture you;
And no one perceives the screams.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Kenydi Young


Division III
(grades 8-9)

by Yupu Cai

AGE 10
The cashier stares me down, impatient, irritated, irked,
as my grandfather struggles to say a simple phrase.
Perfectly clear within his mind, yet somehow the words become
b r o k e n   and   s c a t t e r e d
all out of order, so warped that Ms. Phillips, my reading teacher,
would cry if she heard.
Exiting his mouth, a knot of tangled grammar and mixed-up consonants.
AGE 15
Another cashier, another face, the same expression.
She no longer bothers looking askance at my poor Wai-Gong;
suddenly, I’m the one that she expects to speak.
When he whispers to me in Mandarin, someone mutters, “Speak English.”
AGE 20
That’s how old Wai-Gong was when he sailed here from China,
Without a speck of English in his brain, about to gain a lifelong accent.
An accent that invokes dirty thoughts and glances from others:
“Well, he’s not from here.”
“Why can’t these immigrants learn proper English?”
My grandfather, from a family where pride is paramount,
Swallows his every day.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Yupu Cai


A Song of Spring and Sentimentality
by Ella Kirschner 

We sit on the wire garden chairs
Talking for far too long.
We have crosshatch indents on our legs.
Our wishes drift away
Carried by gossamer messengers
That will turn to weeds.
Floral soothsayers foretell our fates.
I know that odd numbers of petals mean
He loves me.
Freshly pruned lawns
Irritate my skin.
We roll down the hills anyway.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Ella Kirschner


by Emily Kratz


The sweet milk of moonlight lies drizzled about the garden,
coating the trees in a misty silver filigree
As I hold the necklace in hands quickly numbing
And think of rebuilding the past. Here. Tonight.
The springhouse is empty now
The trellises are bare - ghost roses bloom in the corners where the sun doesn't hit
What was once blithe and romantic is now bleak and forbidding
Filled with unpleasant echoes
I wander inside and rest my head against the smudged glass,
making a barrier between me and the accusatory stars
Smoky thorns crowd my mind
The lacy chain of the necklace curls around my fingers as if to strangle
The stormy verdant stone smirks frostily
And suddenly it's all I can do to remain
I untangle it from my hand and place it on the dirt floor,
where it has always belonged
It can keep its own secrets now, I think
I shut the door quietly,
so I don't disturb the memories lying in the dust like ebony feathers
And I hear the breathing of the night in my ears as it follows me to the gate
Knowing the sentiency of black will stay with me

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Emily Kratz


Division IV
(grades 10-12)

Strawberry Birthmark
by Devany Shikiar

Strawberry birthmark.
A red stain of paint that could neither be erased with soap nor the saltwater of tears.
It’s from your father and me kissing you too much, my mother would say.
Too many kisses, I’d tell laughing faces.
Too much love, I’d tell the mocking voices.
Strawberry birthmark, an invader of pale innocent skin and a magnet for insults.
They’re just jealous we love you so much, my father would say,
and they’d kiss me until the tears turned into laughter.
Even with rough washcloths and scalding water, my strawberry birthmark stayed.
It wasn’t until the fighting began and the kisses stopped that it began to fade.
Strawberry birthmark.
It was an unfit red splotch that could be erased.
Erased with too little love and too few kisses.
A strawberry birthmark finally erased, left a greater absence in its place.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Devany Shikiar


Through a Mother's Eyes
by Tara Holz 

Look at that little girl in the backseat,
Not more than three feet tall,
Plastic tiara perched on a head of vivacious blonde curls,
Clutching a pack of sticky fruit snacks,
Wide eyes almost touching a nose-smudged window.
Only a few seconds pass until my next glance,
But she's already grown out of her car seat, slumped against the leather,
Thick eyeliner and black from head to boot,
Eyes the same shade as mine glued to her pristine phone,
Earbuds plugged in, stoutly tuned out,
Not listening, not listening, not listening.
My little girl shoves me into the passenger seat, grabs the wheel,
She speeds up– no, slow down!– defiant eyes locked forward.
Cluttered backseat– tap shoes, tennis racket, waitress apron,
A disregarded pile of her who-I-used-to-be's.
I envision her metamorphosis once she's far from here:
Shiny Louboutins, starched blouse, wild locks pinned back too tightly.
She tenses at my inquisitive gaze and notches up the radio.
So I silently sit back, massaging my arthritic fingers,
And pray she lets her hair down once in a while.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Tara Holz


The Robin's Egg
by Daniel Johnson

It rests in the valley of my palm,
plucked from the dirt like a blue dandelion–
the robin’s egg blessed with the color of the sky.
Ignorant of its fragility, its thinness,
I wrap it in a green towel. Perfect blue
nestled in manufactured linen– a makeshift nest.
Teal and aquamarine are not compatible.
Madly I reach for it,
longing for the weight of beauty, of life.
It cracks under the pressure of my fascination.
Mucus apprehends my fingers.
Holding a planet tortured by earthquakes
which I have caused,
blue shards overwhelm my teary vision
as the cracks quickly become broken glass edges.
Finches and robins taunt me
with chirped shrieks of mocking:
reminders of what could have been
if I had not broken
the robin’s egg.

Poem Copyright © 2016 by Daniel Johnson

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