332 poems -- our largest number so far -- were submitted electronically by teens from our region. Amanda Rutstein, a poetry professor at the University of Mary Washington and manager of the Fredericksburg Writing Center, had the unenviable task of selecting only 24 winners. But how do you choose the best of the best when there are so very many entries? “I look for a variety of characteristics in a winning poem, but my top three are vivid imagery, use of figurative language, and ingenuity,” says Amanda. “It's fun to find the poems from students who took risks and the see the effort they put into those poems to make them shine...The ones who play with language always stand out.”
Winners will be awarded prizes and invited to read their work at the Teen Poetry Night at Headquarters Library, Wednesday, May 27 from 7:30-8:30. There will be a reception afterward, and the public is warmly invited to attend.
Congratulations to the winners of our 2015 Teen Poetry Contest!
And the winners are...
Goodbye and Forever
by Kelly F.
My feelings are moldy bread crusts
falling off grilled cheese sandwiches.
My ribs hold flowers—nothing else.
The petals grow in the
loud—colors mixed to bright black and dull white.
Misty eyes and cold soup taste like long goodbyes.
Adayos, my cactus, kisses my finger and leaves
a bloodprick on my skin, and whispers for the desert.
I whisper for the desert too.
Cacti men and mountains make me feel
like I could be anything—
I see things as objectives.
I still can’t speak Navajo or Zuni—
because my ears
up the sound.
I’ve heard the moon and more,
and Taylor Swift’s "Mean" too many times
because nobody’s given me the moon; because I couldn’t
understand how mean
some kids can be.
These grey watercolors of insults dim the sidewalk
but I’ll color kindness until it covers the world.
I am as talkative as empty guitars and soundless pages.
I jump into stories that take my heart—
fall into blue light of love too many times, the dizzy dots
sprinkle my vision; I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life.
I'll still see my peers in
vintage white T’s,
I’ll still be wearing my flowers, holding my cactus.
Purple ballet flats and Disney songs of the past
call through to me on the streets at night.
When I’m older I’ll be younger.
"Cuando las cigarras llegan"-- I’ll return.
School ends and summer comes
and we try to hold its fingertips tight.
But we’re all just kids
growing up for a moment.
Popsicles mix summer in a bottle and sell it
but people drink it like water—and then it’s gone.
My feelings are mold—
my ribs hold a breathing heart.
by Meagan W.
BUT I DIDNT DODGE A BULLET AND I DIDNT AVOID A CATASTROPHE AND I
DIDNT GET OUT AT THE RIGHT TIME I LOVED YOU TOO HARD AND TOO
LONG AND I KNEW WHAT WAS COMING NEXT AND I DIDNT STOP I HIT THE
WALL STRAIGHT ON AND I THINK I BROKE SOMETHING BUT IM NOT SURE
IF ITS MY NOSE OR MY HEART ALL I KNOW IS I CANT SEE STRAIGHT AND I
MAY HAVE A BLACK EYE BUT MAYBE THEYRE JUST BAGS FROM ALL THE
SLEEP I LOST OVER YOU AND MY BREATHING ISNT RIGHT AND MY HEAD
IS DISORGANIZED AND CHAOTIC AND IM DEFINITELY BLEEDING FROM
SOMEWHERE BUT I CANT REMEMBER IF THE SCRATCHY BRICK CAUSED IT
OR MAYBE YOUR WORDS OR MAYBE I DID IT TO MYSELF BUT ALL I CAN
HEAR IS YOUR APOLOGIES RINGING IN MY EARS BUT WITH MY BLURRY
VISION YOUR SORRY EXPRESSION SURE DOES LOOK LIKE A SMILE
The "Infinite Universe" is More Limited Than Previously Thought
by Leise C.
They taught me the solar system as a little kid.
The boys in my class wanted to be like Mars:
Strong, fierce, good at fighting.
Mars is a boy planet, my teacher made that clear,
And so are most of the others.
They taught me the solar system as a little kid.
There were only two girl planets.
I guess; I mean, they called one “Mother Earth.”
She is fertile and she takes care of her tenants.
Earth is a good hostess.
We wanted to be Earth.
They taught me the solar system as a little kid.
They said, “Venus is named after the goddess of beauty.”
Venus is a girl planet.
We wanted to be Venus.
Well, we didn't have a lot to choose from.
The boys wanted to have powers over the seas
And the stars, and the heavens, and the underworld.
And they wanted to be swift and strong and battle ready.
And the girls wanted to be beautiful and motherly and loving.
They taught us to be the Earth.
They taught the boys to own it.
They taught me the solar system as a little kid.
by Lauren F.
reflected off balloons onto the ceiling.
Spinning with gravity,
moving on its own axis
reflecting light onto ceilings.
The shameless daylight screensaver.
cascading off the nozzle of a bottle
onto the suspiciously innocuous immortal
blush colored flowers;
hiding the constant nagging scent of polished floors
and strained glances around the large
Its funny, hospitals are the home
of several thousand windows
glazed eyes and
what they will be leaving
and how they will never see anything but the
perception a piece of glass holds.
And nothing but white asbestos tiled ceilings and
soap operas that remind you of
those family dinners with too much alcohol
and how everyone relied on
and the clink of horseshoes on
Like prison bars.
Like hospital windows.
And how they remind you to take your meds
and sit up every now and again
hoping you pretend you don't hear
the family next door who whispers
that maybe grandma won't
Or how after you wake from a
blissful morphine induced coma
like every other day,
and your roommates hacking cough
Replaced by empty stained sheets and a saggy mattress
used fifty times too long or too many.
But the windows’ still there.
Never a lever to open
because they probably think youre so senile
or fly away from the picture-esque point of view
only disguised prison bars
sorry, prison windows
opps, hospital windows,
And you're left with your family
sleeping across from you
on paper covered chairs
with vampire eyes.
While your own heartbeat
isnt a secret anymore
and everyone knows your body more
than you ever did, or ever will
and you watch the spinning balloons
and the refractions of light
like fortune tellers crystals,
float around the room
bouncing off dying flowers
and beeping monitors.
And as the beeps grow into an incandescent
constant blare of white noise,
you wish it would just
And it does.
You look out the window into the the bright summer day
of June 22 and
it reminds you of a lie.
A lie that the day
is beautiful for everyone.
A mirror that only shows happiness.
And the doctor says,
Time of death, 2:32 p.m.
And your family still sleeps.
by Tricia D.
All too often do your lips
Taste like the last drag of a cigarette.
The heat floating through the filter,
just a little,
just enough to burn my mouth and tongue,
The areas you claim linger of coffee and mint.
And by god, do i love that sensation.
The scorching tango,
So elegantly choreographed.
My lips, puckered, and burnt.
Yours, not taking the lead,
But making the magic happen nonetheless.
As we speak without speaking
And tell without telling
And sing without singing.
Our mouths are occupied.
There’s no time for anything else.
At least not until you have to leave.
Now, I'll smoke another cigarette,
The first one in months,
All the way down to the filter.
Enough to burn my lips.
Just like you used to.
when charm kissed tragedy
by Eula C.
tell me what is the name of that feeling
the one full of beautiful pain you know the
one with heartbreak the color of rain where you
sit still deciding not to scream and begging the world
not to take it from you that lattice of light and
shadow caused by fiction they tell me i’m
too old for the flurry of pictures the tears the boys are
not ashamed to cry the scattered blue amongst the red
the simple complexity the quixotic serendipity the chimeric grasp
the kind that makes me put my head on your shoulder
and sing you that old song i once knew
maybe the clash the cure the cult maybe just the piano man
oh that feeling i’m sure you know it i’ve seen
bits of it fluttering snowlike through your eyes
don’t you know what it’s called that sweet shiver
that makes you believe in gatsby’s green light even
though we know it failed we know the tattoo of footsteps
coming for us the choice was wrong but we know why now
it’s the piece where you look for your star among them
those last seconds not knowing that it’s gone it’s dead and the one you
claim to know is older and won’t stop talking about leaving
oh it hurts because it’s real but i can’t live without
that elusive fleeing butterfly of an emotion
or maybe it’s a moth creeping away under cover of night
drawn to the silky moon burned by those lamps those
electric convenient killers that i try to ignore and imagine
that there’s a sword at my side pearl in my pocket
instead of this list of last week’s latin vocabulary
amo i love volare to fly away from this place
please tell me what is it called this scar shaped
like the hope in the back of my heart
what is this feeling do you know
by Regan F.
His knowledge came off of him like smoke from a pipe,
drifting into people and causing them to sputter and choke
with the uneasiness of trying to understand
they became addicted to his words.
His smoky wisdom attracted them,
They added their stolen knowledge to their shelves.
They felt wise, but they knew nothing.
They could only repeat what he had said
without even understanding.
They knew nothing on their own.
by Journey K.
down to veins of cotton,
down to veins of needles and thread.
to the last layer of physical being.
morphed and deformed.
I bled my mother,
and I bled her lover,
until I myself no longer existed.
I dissolved into the atmosphere,
into black lungs and beer tongues,
until I disappeared.
That it was it is to be stripped.
by Rachel L.
we are the hidden potholes in the road
tunnels shut down for repair.
stars forgotten in the constellations
cherished books worn down with tears.
we are the blown out flames on birthday cakes
the miscellaneous junk dumped outside
cracked glass held together with duct-tape and wood
we are the flaws that we desperately try to hide.
by Isabella R.
clouds run down your face with the ease of an ocean wave on a warm summer night
tears hit the floor with the pounding of your father's hammer on the nail that won't budge
laughter is stalled with the silence of a thousand crickets who lost their pins
hearts beat in rhythm like the symphony you played when the sun went away
hands interlaced like the strings on a peg held tight by lyrical harmony
wishes for hate held back by a dam of blood stained bricks
eyes closed with the trust of a promise bound by love
hope lost in a second like a child in a maze piled high with curiosity
the life of a dream woken by a warning for dawn is in sight
torture as if that was the only way to see through lies of last minute innocence
cares washed away like a spill of wine on your mother's white carpet that soon becomes
an unforgettable imperfection
rain falls like the wounded dragon in the tale of heroes and sacrifice
it starts slowly like falling asleep Christmas night, knowing the surprise to come
then your eyes start to sting and your feet falter
is this what it feels like to fall apart
one seam at a time
perhaps this is what it feels like to drop from the sky
the downside to internal combustion
We Are The Artists With Pens & Paint
by Emily R.
The streets were lit by our firework eyes.
Figures with scribbled faces and half erased minds passed by us threatening to erase the
color from our own. The sirens blared frequencies to wreck our train of thought. You
held my hand like I was the one who kept you running. Maybe I was? I could feel your
grip loosen, but I wasn't going to let you fall to ruin. One step forward and one crack in
the pavement led to thousand of battle cries from the strangers, whose minds hadn't gone
numb. The army of artists with armories of paint marched alongside the writers with
machine gun words. Explosions of vibrant chroma freed us from the cinereal horizons as
we the gladiators contended in the ruins of coliseums. You were just a boy who was
paralyzed, but you advanced into battle. With a pen in hand, the girl with her mouth sewn
shut screamed. We have won.
by Sriram D.
I make stories that No One reads,
I do favors that No One needs.
I say sorry for No One's deeds,
And if No One is there, I plead.
I take the blame for No One's harm,
I harvest the wheat on No One's farm.
The wheat, it was so bright,
But No One, he was as dark as the night.
I work for No One all night and day,
I do No One's deeds, yet I get no pay.
I got hurt if I did work slow,
I got hurt if the plants didn't grow.
I got hurt if I broke an antique,
After all of this, I still couldn't eat.
And if you didn't know, yes I'm No one's slave,
And No One is my master, will I ever be saved?
And this torture, it lasted for years,
And all I could do was cower in fear.
But the worst was already done,
By that monster, that No One.
by Meg K.
I’ve always had to fake a smile
Keep all my feelings bundled up inside
Hold that smile a little longer just for a little while
Maybe I’m just a mistake and this world isn’t big enough for me
But you’ll never notice because there’s a smile hiding the pain you cannot see
But not for long because I’m starting to see what was meant for me
I wonder why it had to be me
The one who had to have this poison burning inside me painfully
The one who had no point in life
The one who had to be the sacrifice
So I’ll say my goodbyes and be a good little child
As I close my eyes one last time with a smile
Where I'm From
I am from lilacs, from the sun and the rain
I am from the green, long grass under the clouds
I am from the daisies, the roses
I am from the chocolate kisses at Christmas and green eyes, from Nye and Jaqueline and Michael
I am from the swaying of the wind and the sun shining down on my face
From being yourself and being kind
I am from running around in the grass and swimming in the ocean
I’m from Boca Raton, ice cream and pasta
From the “Trip to Wardour Castle,” the dark cavern, and the brown dog
I am from old albums holding my past and old picture frames showing me things I couldn’t see
A Feeling That Can't Be Described....
by Jadia B.
I feel like I’ve been hit by a car
No one can see me dying.
I feel like I’ve been climbing up a rope for years
Nobody can see me trying.
I feel like I’ve been screaming
I must be dreaming
I feel like a confused kid
Who doesn’t know what she did
I feel like I’m alone
Everyone around me is gone
I feel like nobody understands or cares
Even though my heart is beginning to tear
The ones I trusted the most began to fade
As the words they said just stayed
I tried to hide how I feel because
The people I tell will never help me heal
I try to say
But the words seem to go away
I run and hide
Putting how I feel aside
I smile through my feelings all the time
Wondering “why” every time
My feelings can’t be shared because
I always end up getting scared
So, how I feel, is not going to be expressed
because I don’t want anyone else to feel depressed.
i didnt mean to
by Anette N.
I didn’t mean to
Acting is not asking
Bleeding is not breaking
As I walked I choked but I was not chewing
I was dancing; I didn’t mean to break the wide window
I was singing but I ended up screaming
The music teacher ended up quitting
I talked but my word didn’t come out right
So I had to repeat myself
The music stopped playing so I felt so embarrassed
by Sarah H.
The sky is grey today
And the day before that.
My first daffodil bloomed
I picked it.
The poinsettia that never dies
To withstand my moms black thumb.
My sisters trophies
Her accomplishments, My repeated efforts
Wash away an "I miss you."
My first 100%
Meets with my dads reply,
The same one I get for everything.
Dark swirls of honey in oatmeal
My brother asks, "please make pancakes"
I sigh, and put away the to-do list that always gets longer
To fill a never ending hole.
by Bronson M.
We are now leaving, how forlorn!
As we drive out of the town to which I was born.
I leave my home like warmth from winter.
The pain is fierce, like acid on a splinter.
I know not yet to where I am going.
While memories of my Home Town disappear,
Like wind that is briefly blowing.
Even though the decision to move may have seemed smart.
This new town will never replace my Home Town,
Which still occupies the hallways of my heart.