Teen Poetry Contest 2018 - Grades 9 - 12 Winners

9 - 12th Grade Winners

1st Place — Mrinal Pattanaik - 9th Grade

on beauty

i know -
my skin is the color of soot,
a stain in an otherwise pristine shirt,
dirty, muddy, in need of vigorous cleaning,
while yours is the reflection of
sapphires, the dying husk of a sunset.
dusky brown = uglier than gleaming white.
i should know that because indians
are good at math, don’t you know?
hard work erased because our people
are smart. i was born here, but
i am unamerican. i was born here,
but i will never belong.

but did you know -
brown is the color of mud, yes,
but also of the earth, containing love and life 
and happiness. my eyes are dull, yes, but
they turn golden in the sunlight and i’m
reminded of what true beauty is.
why is it that when i’m smart i’m
showing off, but when you’re smart,
you’re celebrated?
i was born here and i am unamerican,
but you are unamerican.
america is a melting pot. we are all
unamerican.

we
cause divergence,
conflict by division. we
tear our country apart
(no, don’t point fingers,
there will always be more pointing back.)
we are different, yes,
but recognize the parallels between us.
we are all unamerican.
none of us belong, so maybe
all of us belong.

2nd Place — Rhitom Mishra - Grade 11

growth

I have kissed 
wounds of self-starvation 
clean from my body,

realized that weeds are grown 
not just sown, but reared. 

knees to dirt,
I have sheared away 
every curse, every critique by day;

and grown my garden 
anew each moonlit night.

I have cleansed
self-sent slurs carved into
the walls of my mind

made art from my scars, 
paintings from my pain. 

I have found 
lies in the ugly 
that marred me with misery,

used the truth in my tales 
to turn my tears into a tapestry— 

—created beauty. 

I have filled 
the cavity within me 
with shimmering droplets of ambrosia;

and I shine, 
a new sun 
breathing life into all I grace.

my happiness, once but a hushed hope, 
it is boundless, seamless.

it is a blend of every color 
and it bursts from my soul 
the most beautiful song the world has ever heard.

3rd Place — Zahra Jumani - Grade 11

We Are

We are the future of America they say.
We are the kids who will make the change.
We are the ones who will fight for our rights.
We are the ones who will reach new heights.

We are the youth of America today.
The ones whose graves we fill every day.
The ones who take their lives from pain.
The ones who shout for help, but seem insane.
The ones who work so hard they bleed,
The ones who cry themselves to sleep.

We are the change in the world,
The ones who will die so others may learn.
We will be the message to the future generation,
We will be the losses of a nation. 
We will be the ones whose lives will be reminders,
To finally remove the ignorant blinders.
We will be the ones whose tears will be signs,
That our world needs to change, it's about time. 

Honorable Mention — Aleena Rehman - Grade 11

Rx

My father’s hand shakes 
as he opens his prescription bottle. 
The cap clicks right. 
Three pills left. 
He needs more, but we can’t afford it. 

The kitchen echoes 
with coughs and static. 
He tips the opening towards his open palm,
hand defined by yellow fingertips and swollen veins,
but the bottle slips from his grasp. 

Pills 
spill 
out. 

He sighs. 
Scoops them up. 
Downs one pill
dry.
And lays down on the worn sofa.