I'm Explaining Our Life  

You have asked me: where have the skies stopped producing the mixture of light and spirits?
                   I'll tell you all the locales.
I lived in a state of mind, full of slumber poppies, with rainbows, and birds, and joy.
From my heart you could feel Apollo's penetrating heat: an iron love.
Is it that you recall from the great good above
those August nights when our bodies woke by the dance of the fireflies?
                                           Friend, now my foe!
And one afternoon your spine was sliced,
one afternoon the bones of the living dead marched together--
                                                                              and from then on we burned separately.
Serpents that serpents would despise; monsters that the monsters would abominate!
Side by side with you I have watched the waves climb and climb into a tsunami
meant to deafen you from the outside screams of my pain and strife!
                                     Hungry bandits:
hear my dead body fall, listen for the murder of my friend:
from every heart poison leaks instead of harmonious love,
from every pore of my body another being emerges,
empowering me as I slither round your throat.
And you have asked: why wasn't her life made of frolicking and dance?
                               Put down your gun! we're already dead.

Natalie Turturro, FL, Spruce Creek High School

Spilled Tea
The sound you made was a yelp of pure jazz.
A mouth distorted as if a caricature by some sidewalk
artist; a testament to the art of kneading, or needing.
It was skin sore with fire, a bite of my
caustic wit, a tea bag vacillating like a pendulum
between the juggernaut of thumb and forefinger.
Tea dripping into a saucer like rain or tears.
Burned by Earl Grey; lemon-sour fingertips to rosy lips;
love spurns the pain. I told you so, I told you so. The
profound confounds us, tumbles despotically like a
teacup, fractured on the floor. Hot liquid dripping
from the counter like rain or tears. Palms red with
fragile porcelain, garbed in fictional blue gardenias.
Smooth lifelines turned to jagged edges or abrupt cliffs,
flesh plunging into mounds of granulated sugar and glass.
We cackled at the cracks until they cut us to the core.
Your jazzy yelp closed in my grip, smelling of
danger and despair, a shaking warmth between my
forearms. Small consolations dripping from my lips
onto your earlobe, like rain or tears.
Yuliya Benina, PA, Council Rock High School South


to a farm girl
we were born at the end; yellow ankles, minds--buried in steel
in mechanized meat, in bank accounts
no veil as toxic, mother earth     it's easy to say this
and gilded streets of lonesome crowded west--ward bound
what safety valve? what golden country?
what world and dream to rape when ankles     stagnant     meet the water?
what direction, but down?
we woke this morning, and fell     a little     further
into generations forth--nothing to claim but hollow chests and empty pockets
born with inward marble pupils, open us     to find no instincts
slam us     shut to abandon: we are     backwards scrambling blind
true-artist-seer, do you figure do you wonder     why modern hands
bear no semblance to applause? we know, we know!
ask us to wrench a bit of world, feel and taste, triple, throw it in the air
and what do we find except that     our hands are dirty
ask us to wrench ourselves from machinery
in reply we     hit the salted sea on knees, beg for mercy, deny a source
repent for their sins,     what instinct
what applause?
Ivy Phan, CA, Armijo High School

Dashboard Confessional
If my father ever illustrated time, he would first sculpt
the insides of his dusty red Honda,
where his little girl sat quietly, graying before his eyes.
Something about headlights and fireflies on a dashboard confessional night
makes her prone to bumping her head on the Accord insides
as she gently uncrouches and asks his permission to take flight.
He might have sprung her from his head
(he was ninety percent Zeus, ten percent man),
but he was missing the light that had begun to shine within her
in the past two years of her life.
And she was his kite. The first few decades,
he'd pull her (drag her) along, and when she gained height,
she would use his higher wind and agree to lead—with speed.
Then every year on dashboard confessional night
they rediscovered the twine that paralleled them.    
He drew pictures for her to read
and she wrote words for him to see.
On a warm night, behind headlights,
father and daughter confide:
he gave her room, she gave him time.                                          
Lucy Tan, NJ, Livingston High School                        


The mother hates all the black
clothing. She leaves the guests
for solace in the kitchen. She
prefers linoleum to lying tears.
Her son follows her in, peers
into the refrigerator. "A juice-box
can solve any problem," she
says. He approaches her with
glassy eyes. He holds her. He
rises onto the tips of his feet
and she bows her head as he
kisses her. She feels his soft
skin brush across her cheek as
she waits for him to pull away.
Jason Sherwood, NJ,
    Northern Highlands HS


Authorities that wish to be
The monarchs in command
Attempt to use me as their pawn
Across this two toned land
Branded me a rebel
So they can clear the way
Intended to be forfeit
Unmoving I must stay
A piece with few directions
But still prepared to fight
The board is somehow slanted
My progress is made slight
Devotion to my movement
Will be my scheming way
To forge a path toward my goal
While others are in play
I reach my destination
My powers now are seen
No longer labeled anarchist
For now I am a queen
Jessica Caraballo, NY, DeWitt Clinton

(in random order)
His Human Thoughts – Anne Rase Atalig, GU, Academy of Our Lady of Guam
Hence – Christopher Records, CA, Martin Luther King HS
Ballooning – Tina Bu, SC, Greenville
Honesty Through a Child’s Eyes – Samantha Suddaby, CA, Clayton Valley HS
And the Pill Bottles Were Like Tiny Maracas – Matt Tutor, TN, Germantown HS
For.the.Partially.Whole – Deanna Soviar, OH, Toledo Christian HS
Damn it’s cold. She lights a cigarette… - Michelle Grand, IL, Lyons Twp HS
(I’m Fuzzy) – Joshua Fu, CA, Harvard-Westlake School
Corrosion – Leda Sox, FL, St Augustine HS
Release – Julia Fine, MD, Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS
6 Ways I Look At The Tress In My Yard – Emmalene Raff, OK, Miami HS
Our Time As Ghosts – Amara Madeo, WA, Sequim HS
Killing Brilliance – Jordan Jaked, NC, Middle Creek HS
no words exclaimed – Renee Jeremiah, NY, Middle Coll HS at Medgar Evers Coll
The Cricket Hunter – Bridgette Zacharczenko, NY, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
Hawthorn – Julia Broussard, LA, Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts
Creative Nihilism – Karen Drydyk, WI, Fort Atkinson HS
Beware the White Feather – Jason Thrasher, MO, Lafayette HS
Oppression – Chad Ellis, UT, Hillcrest HS
Train – Carolyn Marire Caffrey, CA, The High School at Moor Park
Impregnation of a Barren Landscape – Kevin Clancy, PA, Montour HS
Here in Your Eyes – Nicholas T. Nowak, NJ, Homeschool
Thanks, You. – Katy Condic, IL, Oak Forest HS
Thriving Youth – Nicole Reder, NH, Nashua HS South
Washington – Elizabeth VanSant, KS, Wichita HS NW
This mind is bursting at its corners… - Erica Michaud, NH, Winnacunnet HS
Refuge – Rachel Anna Cotterman, NC, Carolina Friends School
Memoirs of a Stowaway – Ambria Schneider, CA, Diamond Ranch HS
Lightening Storm – Allison Glasscock, CA, Cameron Park Christian Academy
Painter – Katie Thompson, IN, Crawfordsville HS
That Room – Lily Yan, OH, Seven Hills Upper School
Progression of Doubt – Autumn Crow, AL, Lincoln HS
Esther, Dear – Amanda O’Connor, NJ, Nottingham HS
Sometimes – Emily Adrian, OR, West Linn HS
A Sonnet to the Eye – Sarah Goncalves, NY, Saint John the Baptist DHS
Stars in the Streetlights – Alexandria Jenkins, TN, Martin Luther King Magnet HS
Safety From The Storm – Tiffany Albright, NC, Dalton McMichael HS
An Afternoon at the Battlefield – Amanda Scot Ellis, VA, Potomac Falls HS
Notes: Assistant Director of Admissions, upon meeting at DU College Fair –
Maria Newkirk, CO, D’Evelyn HS
Thanks to all of you for helping to make this year’s contest
the very best that it could possibly be.