1st place, Grades 10-12
A Thousand Notions by Kaitlin, Grade 11, Chancellor High School
I have this notion that stars can be crushed,
Blown from the palm like dandelion seeds
A thousand times I’ve tried it,
But the glass pieces of wishes still wait, shivering,
For winter to be over.
And a thousand times I’ve tried forgiveness,
And a thousand times I’ve tried to stay.
All the words I try to speak get stuck in my throat,
I give it to the stars,
Hoping that somewhere, somehow,
You’re getting the notion too.
2nd place, Grades 10-12
Dance With Me by Abigail, Grade 10, Courtland High School
The sun dances a slow round in the sky,
the butterflies circle in courtship step,
the grasses sway a minuet below,
so you and I shall join the dance.
We’ve done no wrong, darling dear,
as far as I can see.
So rest your pretty feet,
don’t be a’feard to dance with me.
In my panther’s paw I’ll fold
your dove wing finger, hold tight,
I shall kiss away those dewdrop tears
that cling to spider-leg eyelashes, dear heart.
Yes they call me black although
I’m not near dark as night.
But when they call you white
they don’t lie, sweet lady of the light.
And so they stand in a ring
‘bout the pretty little tree.
They watch our spirited dance,
They howl and cheer aloud.
Oh, we’ve done no wrong sweet lover,
So just hold your breath and grin.
Grin and bear it.
Just don’t be a’feard to dance with me.
Propelled forward by greedy hands
We stumble in dissonant misstep.
They push us to the clearing,
By the pretty dancing tree.
Oh how the sun dances eternally above,
As we step a merry jig
While grasses sway below, a’tickling at our toes,
Sweetly by the dancing tree.
Mayhap we could take a stroll,
just leave our bodies elsewhere.
Walk across the broken bridge,
down to the misty hill, my heart?
Thus forgotten the tree,
and gone the crowd.
So lost the dance
that we depart to God knows where.
Away from the lovely hanging tree.
3rd place, Grades 10-12
Winter-Spring by Bethany, Grade 10, Home School
In a city on a hill grows a dainty daffodil.
Look at your elegance, how delicate you are.
But you silly daffodil, you’re growing on a winter hill.
In a brook beneath a bridge sings and plays a spring peeper.
You sing and play the day away
But you silly, peeping thing, you’re playing in a winter spring.
And in a meadow in a tree works a busy buzzing bee.
You work and fly and buzz and work
But you silly buzzing bee you’re working in a winter tree.
Now a poem like this could go on and on
And in doing so my paper would soon be gone.
So what is the moral to the story of silly things?
Who came out in the winter instead of the spring?
A worm for the early bird he did sow
But to the impatient riser, a face full of snow!
Honorable Mentions, Grades 10-12
Bouquet by Kaitlin, Grade 11, Chancellor High School
You gave me a bunch of roses.
I put them in a vase with a little water,
Left them stale and the roses died.
And I could think of all the ways that dying and dead roses are poetic
But really they're ugly and they smell of rot.
And while the roses were dying I wondered if somewhere you were
Giving roses to someone else who would take better care of them,
Someone who would water them and talk to them and smell them Daily.
I cannot be this person because flowers in a vase seem so sad to me.
If I wanted to bring joy to my house I'd hang Christmas lights or Dreamcatchers, or maybe paint my walls a different color.
Those things can't die, they don't rot, they don't make me feel bad For my anger.
Catharsis by Samuel, Grade 12, James Monroe High School
I am not sitting
At my spot
At the table
I am sitting
At my mother’s
But she isn’t here
At 2 am
So I get the spot
Closer to the light
Exposing all the scattered crumbs and specs of salt
Casting a proud shadow of my brother’s chair on the wall
But well defined
The crumbs should have been swept up hours ago
As the black night gown
Is slowly singed by the white fire of day
The chair’s shadow
Will sink into the floor
And I will wipe away these crumbs
As the sun
Sends away the stars
And I will leave
My mother’s seat
Homeless by Yousra, Grade 10, Brooke Point High School
On the side of the grimy street,
Sitting, staring at the loud and heavy feet,
Of speeding strangers.
Gazing at the shiny cars,
Watching the city pass me by,
I am stuck here; a prison without bars.
“There’s no place like home,”
Yes, that may be true…for you.
A “there’s no home” would suit me just fine.
Except it isn’t fine.
The ground is cold, everything is cold,
So I silently hope and hopefully hold
My worn hand out.
The people’s stares are cold.
“Spare change? Spare change? Spare change?”
My breath loses life with each word.
And my fingers turn a color that’s absurd.
There’s no home for me.
There’s no hope for me.
But it wasn’t always this way.
I remember, I was once safe and secure and had dreams,
I was warm; I was loved and never alone,
I was home.
The Pressure. It was too heavy to bear;
Happiness became impossible,
Mistakes become cyclical,
So I was crushed.
Now you can find me on the side of the grimy street,
Staring at the loud and heavy feet,
Waiting for someone to help me back on mine.
1st place, Grades 7-9
Coma by Lauren Ann, Grade 8, Dixon Smith Middle School
A gypsy taps her tambourine,
a man hits wood with his ax,
a boy hits a bird with a stone,
while I sit and watch.
The gypsy laugh's in grace as she dances,
the man grunts with effort to chop,
the boy sounds a war cry,
while I sit and watch.
My gypsy runs around the crowd
stealing the coins I seek,
my man carves a throne of oak
just for my amusement,
my boy steals the feathers of the bird
to braid into my hair,
while I sit and watch for my employees
to come near.
Her black hair radiates
around her shoulders and back,
a red robe she wears, and dimples to match.
She gives me the coins,
a smile not in sight
and I dismiss her
to dance without any fright.
The man comes soon,
with a throne on his back
sweat on his face
arms strong as a yak
the seat was set down just near me too.
I gave him the coins
and bid him adieu.
The boy quickly ran right
over the hill fists full of feathers
still warm from the kill.
I smiled as he strung
feathers in my hair,
and knew when I turned around
he wouldn't be there.
As time passed on
my employees came and went.
For my thoughts were muddled
and my back was bent.
I awoke in a bed
older than time,
and came to find out
I was in a coma for a time.
2nd place, Grades 7-9
Forest Symphony by Lauren Ann, Grade 8, Dixon Smith Middle School
A babbling brook,
that just sets,
birds that sing,
and time disappears from sight.
My heart flutters
as if it belonged to a
and when you see that it is night,
and the sun has sunk below the horizon,
and the night has come with no light in sight,
and the birds are not singing for they are asleep,
but you still hear the brook.
Babbling to itself as always
and never ceasing to think
whether someone hears its ravings
And as I sit alone
in the woods at night
listening to the bugs chirping
and the moon showing the features of my weathered face,
I see a blip.
A poke of light in the darkness,
a firefly, looking for a mate.
I smile remembering my love still gone.
My heart still flutters
in my old chest
and in that cold night
a symphony began.
and even the moon
sang cheerfully through the night.
They use all the time they have
for when the sun rises
they will have to wait
once again for the sun to set,
the brook to babble,
the moon to rise,
and the fireflies to light the night sky.
Then a new song will begin
as it does every night
in this wood of hope
3rd place, Grades 7-9
Human Trafficking Slaves of Florida (who are sadly still there) by Mackenna Lee, Grade 9, Lighthouse Academy
Day goes on, sun makes an arch
Leaves are wet but throat is parched
Behind the fence the truck drives off
Dust rises, sneers, to say
'Only tomatoes are leaving today'
Out of sight with the fruit in back
But still in the fields more wait
like our nerves, the stems
after a good pull, smooth and red in hands worked sore
tomatoes never done and there's always more.
Outside is better than trailer hell
Brings no rest or sleep for me or the others.
We exist, breathe, dwell
The weeks loop on, moon balloons and deflates. We sleep as we wake.
Better the outdoor biting flies than nightly pressed
Against drought-ground skin and sweat-film flesh
Got nothin' on our one but the clothes on our hide
Just like the tomatoes but they're happy outside
(and get to leave, two big differences).
The trailer doesn't shield us from the mosquitoes anyway. Little whimpering demons seem just as miserable as the rest of us.
We walk past the shower, though we know we all reek
A spray from a hose cost us a quarter what we make a week.
(not much anyway, we're over our head)
Why get paid at all when you can't go free?
Perhaps this is my penalty.
But I can't leave now.
Like shipwrecked on an island in a corner of the world but no one cares we're missing.
They go around sucking down our tomatoes like our ugly hog master.
Run away again or even try,
it's back to trailer hell and who knows why
we're even here?
While others starve for jobs up north.
Far away I'd be if I wasn't here.
What's left of my shirt sticks to my back
It's dark in the trailer but my eyes whirl around
Not used to the stillness and the darkness they've found
(Blinding white heat then the dark pitch oven, my days go back and forth)
But now I see there's a hole in the roof, a dent of sky
Mouth squeezed shut, lips bite back a cry
Mouth still closed but running feet say
'Not just tomatoes are leaving today'
At least that sounds good played out in my head.
Honorable Mentions, Grades 7-9
Drifting Away by Lindsey, Grade 8, Walker Grant Middle School
There is a girl standing in the waves,
Her lips are blue as ice,
Her skin white as snow,
Her eyes are not enticed,
By the shore from which she floats,
Because the one she loved has let her go.
The Sakura by Hannah, Grade 9, Riverbend High School
As the spring blooms up
Pink petals falling around
The sakura trees
Melting Ice by Maddie, Grade 7, Walker Grant Middle School
I am the whisper of thunder
That calls the rain and lightning.
I am the tissue used for tears.
Used once, then tossed away.
I’m the sweetness of a lemon.
Why don’t people let me talk?
Why don’t people listen?
I am the silence of a lock with no key.
A file cabinet full of secrets.
I’m the smallest grape on the vine.
People make me feel tiny.
I’m the ice skaters skim.
I will soon melt, and they will sink.