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Poetry Contest Winners

Poetry Contest Winners

Congratulations to these 2022 Teen Poetry Contest Winners

Ages 10-12
1. We Are Changed by Aida E.
2. I Am From Memories by Isabella K.

TAB Choice
1. Where I'm From by Audrey Y.

Ages 13-15
1. Where I'm From by Raya E.
2. The Prettier Clown by Ayana K.

TAB Choice
1. Hello, Good Friend by Lillian V.

Ages 16-18
1. The Disgust of Desire by Melody Y.
2. my grandmother, a lake by Kareion S.

TAB Choice
1. Maturing by Amelia A.

Ages 10-12: Staff Votes

1. We Are Changed by Aida E.

Some say our past is past? Colonialism, slavery, racism…only relics of history books. Some say America has moved beyond? But, the chains of capitalism are crippling. Some say democracy prevails, that “All men were created equal?” But, the benefactors are still benefiting It’s 2022 and I’m 12. I see undocumented workers doing back-breaking labor Did slavery end? I see pipelines destroying Native American reservations Did colonialism end? I see the unending evils of systemic racism in policing Did racism end? I call it greed. I call it evil. I, call it human exploitation. America is chained if it refuses to face the past. America is chained if it repeats its evils. But, I know this. History isn’t over. We’re still making it. We are changed. And we will not be chained.


2. I Am From Memories by Isabella K.

I am from clapping my hands
Watching the dusty chalk fill the air
Like a smoky cloud blinding me

I am from the nervous feeling
Of holding my breath
While climbing onto the beam
And seeing my parents cheer me on from the crowd

I am from hoping to get a perfect score
While sticking my landing

I am from the great outdoors
And national parks
With canopies of huge deep green leaves

And the aroma of smoke at a campsite
While hearing the soft strumming
Of a ukulele play

I am from hearing crickets chirp
And night owls call to each other
Whooo Whooo
While staring at the starry night sky

I am from the smell of smoky fresh hamburgers
Sizzling straight from the grill

I am from spending hours at the library
And never wanting to leave
From memorizing multiplication tables
That never seem to stick

I am from my fingers gliding across the piano keys
Getting the melodies implanted in my head

I am from my elegant kitty
Sipping water out of my glass
And my dog lapping up water
On a hot sunny day

I am from all of the extraordinary things
My friends and family do for me

I am from memories


Ages 10-12: TAB Choice

1. Where I'm From by Audrey Y.

I am from my lovies and Abby the Gorilla.
From rice in the pantry and drawing paper on the dining room table.
I’m from hot summer days spent laying on my circle swing and the neighbors dogs barking at 6 in the morning.
The tulips and zucchini that grow each year.

I am from family reunions at lake houses and paddle boarding each and every year.
From Gigi and Grandpa Toms.
I am from my family’s math specialty and shrimp boils with corn and from not knowing aunt’s and uncle’s names.

I’m from “Don’t touch that!” and Wagon Wheel playing loudly.
I’m from “olives up” at every gathering.
I’m from Wisconsin, Ireland, Thailand and Laos.
Brewers games and sticky rice with soy sauce and pork.
From haunted houses and wedding stories told by my family.
From the albums in the cabinet, just bursting with memories.
And those rare summer visits from Kiyanie and Kaylana.

This is where I am from.


Ages 13-15: Staff Votes

1. Where I'm From by Raya E.

I’m from words that overfill bookshelves, Library ‘scent’ addiction at an early age. I’m from rabbit holes that I eagerly jumped into, from plush Oz fields filled with poppies, To the fantastical, magic-filled walls of Hogwarts castle. I’m from characters living rent-free in my imagination. I’m from words that reclaim my identity, Frowning at the map, I discover that “their” map doesn’t include the place I’m from, Mama has to write our home onto ‘their’ map, And, I learn that ‘home’ is a construct. I’m from revolutionary words that break barriers, With a strong grip on a flag that seems so far away, I find that ‘occupation’ is so near, It’s here. My stomach sinks, from the death counts that no one reports, From histories that don’t include mine! My story The one I learned at home, Is cemented in my mind. I’m from conversations that walk the tightrope between Arabic and English, And sometimes fall. From family legends that seem more hyperbole than true, And from a legacy of fleeing the homeland, That I wish wasn’t so true. I’m from trying to make sense of a language I’ve never really learned, The meanings buried deep inside me, I’m from soaking up the love of my people, Their resilience etched on my soul. I’m from my own words, who took so long to carefully emerge, But were worth the wait, Like tiny tulips waiting for spring, Knowing just the right time, And then surprising me, more than anyone. I’m from a hurricane of words, manifesting into the story of me, from chapters of learning to epilogues of growth, A lexicon, all my own. I seize control of the pen, and write the story myself.


2. The Prettier Clown by Avana K.

The Prettier Clown I lift my eyelashes up each day Bearing the weight of unattainable beauty standards The mascara dark like me I paint myself a fake face With rosy cheeks And bright red lips Hoping that I can play dress-up as long as I can I can only cry if it is immediately covered up With drugstore foundation that doesn’t match me Every blemish, every crack must be covered There is no room for imperfection in this show It’s okay for women to be walking clowns Balancing on a tightrope that was made to break from the beginning As long as our audience is smiling But the moment they stop smiling And start pulling at us for happiness Is the moment we’re supposed to sit back and enjoy the show Does it ever get tiring? Doing it every day? Not when you’re far behind Not when you’re losing the race of worthiness It’s funny how the mask we put on everyday Doesn’t even melt into us It just takes away what we’ve had in us from the beginning Each stroke of mascara pulls at me My femininity unraveling like the cheap fabric of our costumes we wear Each stroke pulls at me Until I’m forced to look up And be peered and prodded at by the world But it’s okay, I’ll work with it Because one day I will be ok with going outside without a mask Because the lifting of the mascara and brushing of the blush gives me hope Hope that one day I can be the prettier clown - a girl of color


Ages 13-15: TAB Choice

1. Hello, Good Friend by Lillian V.

“Hello there, good stranger,
it is nice to meet you-”
Those are the words I use to greet you.
You smirk up and ask
“Is that really what they’re forcing you to say?”
then you send a laugh my way.
We take our tour,
walk around and more,

“Hello there, good stranger”
you say to me with a grin.
The chances of me not liking you are very slim.
We sit down at the lunch table
and chat throughout the day,
and I become fond of you in many ways.
We cling to each other like peanut butter and jelly, and after school, we grab a bite at the deli

“Did you hear about how she-” the whispers cut off as I walked in.
It’s almost as though they didn’t want me to listen.
When I ask “What’s wrong,”
they tell me about how nobody gets along

“Do you really think the new girl is rad?”
the girls nagged. “I heard everything she does is bad.”
I want to say no, I truly do,
But why would I risk all of my friends for you?
We laugh and call you dumb,
and mimick you by making and puppets with our thumbs

“Hello there, good friend,
it is nice to see you again” I hope you can't see through me.
The guilt of the words I say
are affecting me in many ways.

“Hello there good friend, are you okay?”
I see the tears on your cheek,
glistening and faint.
I act as if I don't know who started such lies.
I wonder if you can see it in my eyes.
I quickly reassure you that I'd alway be there for you,
but how could that be true?
You look at me blankly and quietly thank me.

“Hello there good friend, how’s your day?”
You turn away and refuse to look at my face.
“I cannot believe how bad of a friend she is.
It couldn’t be me, I’d never do that.”

The girls whisper about me the whole recess;
it’s like the day has become a me-fest
I’m the hottest news in town
but if only they knew how much I regret the way I treated you

Goodbye old friend, for now I resent you.
I hope all these words about me keep you content too. You’ve ruined my social life
and taken away my pride so
Goodbye old friend, have a good night.


Ages 16-18: Staff Votes

1. The Disgust of Desires by Melody Y.

Desire… What is desire?
It comes from the latin word desiderare which means to long or wish for
And that derives from de sidere ; from the stars
But why does my desire not come in such a simple form?

I don’t wish upon the stars.
No, I don’t believe in such things.
The last time I ever wished upon the stars led to tragedy, led to fights, led to temper.
It was as if the gods above decided to mock my pain by adding more.
I decided on a different method.

I wished on a weed; blowing its feathers; letting it cross the wind.
That did not grant my desire.
Instead, that desire fell flat like those feathers
I saw the gods laugh at my foolish choice; seeing as I put the heavy burden on that small weed.
And that small burden from it made my desires become weeds.

I wished on the little candles I gained on my birthday.
As I put more desire on those candles, the faster it melted; it could not hold my ugly desire.
Quick breaths and frantic,
I blew it and saw the black sickening smog lifted the desire into the sky.
It was as if the gods cursed me for such impure desires.

How foolish, how heavy, how dirty my desires are for it not to be granted?
How many times must I believe in such a simple thing for it to be granted?
I wished on the high stars
I wished on the ugly weeds
I wished on the skinny candle
None of them ever granted my wish.
Must I sacrifice myself for the gods to notice me?
Must I force my desires to not become weeds?
Must I forsake my identity for it to become true?

I’m looking at the stars now.
It’s far. Too far.
Maybe I don’t have the conviction to purify myself so that it does not become smog.
Maybe I don’t have the strength to carry it that far like the feathers.
Maybe I don’t have enough love for it to lead to happiness.
All I can do now is watch it happen
And watch my world crumble because of my desires.


2. my grandmother, a lake by Kareion S.

and she is not always this
to the brim with every
waters rushing
currents pulling
wavy as they scoff, smirk
just beneath the surface

man calls to her in the depths
finds her treasure dropped
salmon birthing, giving her up as
sacrificial as every daughter heard
her name on his tongue

sisters gone, given as other rivers
flowed, one with other gulfs
they cannot will not reach for her

she sits at the bottom,
warms herself interior at winters
granting temperament hotter than centuries
past and present and fires started even
burning through waters purifying
every ounce of her

she winks at you through rain pouring
from eyes into her body

man snorts the whiteness of skies
goes fishing at other lakes
bodies spread before as women, men
they give him vermin, he eats
not of grandmother
brings her this wake

invasive species fill the depths, swim
counterclockwise break the flow of
fish granted by generations swimming away
upstream even as I toss my net
scarcely cast rod instead
this body gives me
love wisdom chaos
come to know myself
say, of man, this body hurts still

drown in her, drown momentarily
she gifts me the surface
hands full of fish taken
they swim no more

her waters
wash our feet
at every shore


Ages 16-18: TAB Choice

1. Maturing by Amelia A.

“You’re maturing”
They say as soda becomes alcohol
Teacups turn into red solo cups
Throwing up was only for when you were sick

“You’re maturing”
They say as lollipops become cigarettes
Pixie stix turn into cocaine
Getting high was only possible on a swing

“You’re maturing”
They say as small kisses on the cheek become sex
Cooties turn into STDs
The best protection used to be a helmet

“You’re maturing”
They say as recess becomes harder classes
Picture books turn into chapter books
Homework only lasted a few minutes

“You’re maturing”
They say as sharing secrets becomes blackmail
Friends turn into strangers
Classmates are forgotten faces

“You’re maturing”
They say as laughing till your ribs hurt becomes depression
Straight A’s turn into barely passing
Basing self-worth on what is posted on social media

“You’re maturing”
They say.
But at what cost?