2016 Poetry Contest Winners

3rd to 5th Grade Poems

First Place
The Old Birch Tree
by Isabel Yates

The sun warms the childs face,
streaming through the leaves
of the old birch tree.
Wise From countless years
of looking over the little girl's
while she bathes
in his shade

doing homework.
He watches her
from ABC's
to writing papers,
then essays;
from numbers
to algebra.

He meets her friends:
first the preschoolers
who climb
on his lowest branches
and tug
on his lowest leaves.
the older friends
who climb
to his highest Point
and play games
in his shade.And the old birch tree thinks of all the ways he is blessed, "I am blessed because not all trees have children who bathe in their shade and climb on their branches and do homework against their trunk and always always come back.

After years
the child
is no longer a child.
she comes
with a man.
They scratch hearts
in his bark,
they lean
on his trunk.
They laugh,
and hug,
and sleep.

There is a ceremony:
they dress
in white
and Black.
They kiss
under the shade
of the old birch tree.
they disappear
for weeks
that turn into months
that turn
into years.
the old birch tree
sees new faces
with old faces.
The girl
his girl
came back
with her children,
to bathe in his shade,
and climb
on his branches
and do homework
against his trunk.
Then they go away again
But they say
that they will return.

And the old birch tree
thinks of all the ways
he is blessed,
"I am blessed because
not all trees
have children
who bathe
in their shade
and climb on their branches and do homework
against their trunk
come back.

2nd Place
My Papa
by Hannah Faith Mitchell

Always carries mints with him,
Willing to share them with me,
Takes me on golf cart rides,
Behind the barn, in the woods,
Teaches us old songs,
The Coward of the County
is my favorite one to hear
Tells us spooky stories,
We are always scared
Sneaks us sausage biscuits,
Lets me have cold cans of Pepsi,
Says he is going to see a man about a dog,
Always has time to spare,
Calls me his sweet Sugar Bear,
Loves me like I love him,

Third Place
by Bode Burau

Here before I was.
Already a member of the family.
You greeted me on my frst day home
With wet nose and fuzzy face.
My brother
As I grew you were my friend and protector.
Playing fetch for hours.
You would always run around with the ball
Playing keep away.
On hot days we passed the time splashing in the lake.
On cold nights, you kept me warm snuggling under blankets.
You could always be found lying in the sun
With one of your people.
My Brother
Whenever I came home you were giddy with excitement
Jumping on me and licking me with your soft tongue.
As time passed, your eyes began to fail you
Your hearing faded, I realized how much I loved you.
It was in your old age that my compassion and feelings grew for you
My Brother
No longer able to fetch, splash and jump,
We spent our time, much time,
Quietly snuggling, your warm furry body pressed against me.
I could feel your breathing
And Sometimes your legs twitched,
I hoped that you were dreaming
Of all the fun times we had.
My Brother
In the end as we surrounded you, touched you and prayed for you,
Wishing you no pain and much peace.
Knowing that those who went before you were ready to greet you.
I recognized that it was a little black dog with a very big heart that
Taught me much of what I know about
Fun, family, loyalty and love.
My Brother
My Buddy

Honorable Mention
A Mother's Legacy
by Devyn Davis
I am thankful for her.
Today and everyday.
An illness called EOE
ls eating my esophagus.
Fifteen surgeries.
Pretty sure I will never be done.
When I don't feel normal.
She helps me.
Stays home when I am sick.
Explains things.
Helps with my allergies.
I am thankful for her.
Today and everyday.
She made me a better person.
Had me in sports.
Protects me with her life.
Sewed a band to hold my tube.
The tape irritated my skin.
When l feel different,
Not like everyone else.
She talks to me.
I feel better.
ln the hospital,
She sleeps in my room.
Lays in the bed with me.
Holds me close.
Because of my mother,
I will be...
A Scientist.
Make things better.
A car that runs on air.
I am thankful for her.
Today and everyday.

People's Choice
by Cooper Hessels

Our brothers fought,
for freedom bought.

We carry on,
with our sons.

For generations,
we fight for our great nation.

now me.

6th to 8th Grade Poems

First Place
Dear Barbados
by Maya Green

You appear in flashes of lightning;
I am the thunder blundering behind,
a shadow, a silhouette with blurred
edges. The sky fractures into midnight
shards: the glint of my grandmother's
glasses against basement grays
as she braids a rich history
as effortlessly as she weaves strands
of my sister's thick, dark hair.
The pothole that jostles me back to
rides on your buses held together
by duct tape, reggae rumbling in one car
while a lady whose voice I can't recall
tells her sister of her day
in a dialect I can't understand.
Two seas swirl angry with this storm.
Yours is translucent, laced with sunlight
coating my grandfather in a honey glow as
he floats on his back in the early morning
silence. The other (mine?) is mauby
brown, viridian, black in the night,
undecided and murky with lurking
jellyfish, the sting of ancestry.
I sense you vaguely in the curvatures
and lines of the word HOME,
hear you in the sizzle of snapper
bought as a substitution of your flying fish,
feel you as I spin on your street,
hands raised to the stars. And yet
I am a tourist on your beaches,
sand in fraying braids, sunscreen
smeared on my nose. I go
back to the hotel. Electric fans whir
away tropical air. I am alone.

Second Place
Proud to be Armenian
by Anna Rose Enjaian

My grandmother described the days of her childhood
ln her rough Middle Eastern accent.
She was alone then, and sailed here
A stranger.

Greedy rulers, expanding their kingdoms
Competed for her small native land.
She dwelt poorly in the ruins of a city
ln Armenia.

The Ottoman Turks were their greatest enemy
Slaughtering thousands and starving multitudes in the desert.
But through it all the tortured were brave
Because they were Armenians.

My grandmother taught me their dances, and customs
And kept their Christian faith alive in me.
We conversed together in her native language
And she showed me her treasure - the family tree.

She told me to always remember my heritage
And to tell of my ancestors' legacy of faith.
And so I keep my head high because I am
Proud to be Armenian.

Third Place
Memories of My Father
by Jesse Zaragoza

My dad gave to me a small statue,

Standing six inches,
Father on his knees,
Arms wrapped around his son.

He prayed with me,
Lay till I was asleep.

Never followed anyone else's lifestyle.

Now, exiled to Mexico
Because of laws
without sense.

Always with us
ln thought,

Small statue,
What I look at,
Of my father.

Honorable Mention
Living Up to the Legacy
Journee McMinn

He worked and he worked and he worked.
And for a while there was no reward; however, that was to be expected.
For during that time they didn't see a man struggling to feed his family.
They saw a man of color, inferior due to nothing but the pigment of his skin.
He was a janitor.
And so he worked and he worked and he worked.
Still he received nothing
not even a pat on the back.
However, he was undeterred for he was a smart and patient man.
Even as he saw countless whites get the jobs he deserved, he was unfazed.
He channeled his anger and he worked ten times harder.
He was still a janitor.
And he worked and he worked and he worked.
And finally he was rewarded and the cycle continued-
him doing ten times as much as everyone else
to get half the promotions they did.
He was a manager.
He died a while back.
He was financially comfortable, happy, satisfied with life. No regrets.
But when I look back and look at all he did—
I'm so proud and I'm so ashamed:
I'm proud that I get to call a man like that my grandfather.
And I'm ashamed when I think that, even after seeing what he did,
many people still aren't convinced
that working hard-even when it goes unrewarded-is the answer.
But I I know the truth for I am a smart and patient girl.
I'm a student with straight A's.
So I work and I work and I work.

People's Choice
Bear Hunt with Dogs
Aaron Owens

I turn loose the dogs
they start trailing.

My dad and I
driving on the road
to head them off.

Crossed a road
out of the truck

loaded gun
300 pound bear

9th to 12th Grade Poems

First Place
Having Found the Gulf Motel
inspired by Richard Blanco's "Looking for the Gulf Motel"
by James Rode

Sunlight knocked at the closed shutters.
Life patiently lurked at the door.
Cigarette smoke still rose from the ashtray,
their cartons strewn among the sweaters and jeans
like quarters in the grocery store parking lot.

On one side, the two neighbored a drug addict.
The other, a couple on honeymoon.
Outside, a man sat in his car
flipping through a phonebook scarred with
Sharpie marks through all the coastal hotels....

Where was it? he asked of his sun-beaten steering wheel.
Gone were his mermaid lampposts and the garlic-stricken lobby,
the pastel yellow walls overgrown with kudzu,
the muddy American flag in its cracked, bronze brace,
gone were the stained microwaves and his frozen dinners
and the men leaning against the walls who would nod at him,
say, "Hey, little man," and keep smoking.

There should be nothing here I don't remember.

The alarm clocks had long since died,
the cleaning lady had knocked and pushed her cart on.
The room smelled distinctly like skin, like
sweat basted with perfume rubbed on legs spread over linen,

and like hammers and fresh drywall.
The dead alarms ring. The cars falter, blinking, and vanish
The couple reclothes, the addict overdoses.

The man in his car traced the address.
The half-lit neon sign matched. He fondled
his keychain, a worn housekey and a starfish charm.

There should be nothing here I don't remember.

Second Place
Her Refuge
by Liv Provosty

1940 in Yorkshire England,
a brown baby is nestled
in white linen blankets,
her forehead kissed
and dark hair covered
with a white lace bonnet.

1947 on Manor Lane,
a little girl's olive legs
swing off a candy-shop counter,
she tastes caramel for the first time.
She has never known a sweetness like this,
for years her family's worth
has been measured in ration stamps.

1955 on Bellflower Way,
her mother hands her a pair
of golden tweezers. The exchange
feels like a ceremony
the passing of beauty's burden.

1960 on Cadbury Avenue,
she is called her boyfriend's
foreign girl and she bites her tongue.
The waiter couldn't have known
they were born in the same town.

1963 in Saltburn,
she sits by the sea, ocean
air lingering in thick raven locks,
long fingers pressed against
her growing stomach.
She prays, an act she hasn't done
in years, this one inherits her husband's
blue eyes and freckled skin,
let time alter what her body can't control.

Third Place
by Roey Leonardi

My grandmother tells me
stories of 1960, Miami, Florida,
when at twelve years old,
she and nine other Catholic school
girls piled up next to her baby brother
in her mother's dark green Chevrolet.
The backs of their thighs stuck
to pleated skirts, long legs tangled,
argyle socks and brown penny loafers.
The heat formed mirages on
the pavement, wind rushed
in through the windows, and strands
of honey hair stuck to petal lips.
They stood in the 163rd Street
open air shopping mall, where
on a small platform, John F. Kennedy
spoke of "a time for greatness." White
cuffs extending from dark suit sleeves, he
reached a suntanned hand out to the crowd,
laugh lines deepening at the comers
of his eyes, straight white teeth.
She says the thing she remembers most
is being surprised by how much red
was in his hair, so different from
the grainy black and white pictures
that flashed on her television screen.
I wonder now what it's like to watch
the world through a gauzy veil
of monochrome, pulling at the threads
until a tear forms large enough to see
color, a feeling that will never come
to me, a feeling that faded away with
'63 and a General Electric color
television, when my grandmother
realized there was no mystery in gold
buttons gleaming down the front of a pink suit,
all the sorrows shaded once in grayscale
now bleeding out onto the shaking fingers
of a widow's hands, as she realized that we will
never again look in wonder upon auburn hair.

Honorable Mention
Cosmos Bipinnatus
by Elliot Blake Hueske

My sister was born on the edge of dusk
sandstone yellow light brushed
across dewy skín as it faded from the horizon.
The world stopped to hear her cry,
because that early, everything was asleep.

Her face was a gallery. Opaline skin
and quick blonde strokes like Degas,
little hands wrapped like clay around sculptures.

ln kindergarten she would brush her hair
with twigs in the backyard, tear apart fig leaves,
handing one emerald half to me, saying I should
keep it safe, that I should place it
in my pocket for winter when there were none left.

I hoped that at ten I would be taller than her,
but she grew like grass in sidewalk cracks
and blew clouds when she laughed.
Her hair still fell like watercolors on thick paper
and tourmaline eyes cut like quartz.

When she was twelve, I was twelve with her.
and when I look in the mirror l see a hazy image of myself:
azure water bubbling
behind glass eyes. Tired hands.
on school mornings pouring cereal into bowls.
Late purple nights watching blues and yellows
fuzz with sound on the television,
while rain taps against clear windows.
Her creased blue eyes
that flutter beneath skin,
our morse code telling me about her dreams.

Now we on the verge of fifteen,
rooted, twin-stemmed, identical petals,
growing with paired leaves.
Cosmos bipinnatus that can only bloom
with its sister by its side.

People's Choice
The Locket
by Erin Justice

A locket, tarnished and at loss of luster; well loved
Inside holds a picture, the corners fraying and the photograph smudged
Passed down generation to generation, a familial artifact
It has been worn during many different occasions
Some joyous, some sorrowful

This locket has graced the neck of jubilant brides, and mourning widows
It has endured times of ailment and desperation
With the hands of the clock churning, whirring with passing years
This locket has stayed able, not one link of it's chain ever breaking

The photograph inside exhibits a well dressed couple, smiles gracing their lips
A glimpse into the mindset of flourishing young love
With their star crossed gazes, their adoring passion
The photo shines a ray of aspiration for the future of the young couple

This is the legacy of how our family began, the love story in which started it all
Our treasured locket was a gift from a caring husband to his blushing bride
The kindred connections that this necklace has to our past ripples through the family records
Giving us a direct linkage to our ancestors

It may not look like much, I know
But the magic isn't in how it is presented
The magic resides in the belief of yourself
The belief that relationships can last
That soulmates can find one another
And the wholehearted belief that true love never dies

If you can keep those beliefs in your heart
You can expose yourself to a whole nother world
It takes endurance of harsh criticism, and resist wrongful judgment from others
Oppression from the higher standings in society
Hurtful words and diamond-hard opinions

But you must remember to keep your own head held high
To keep both feet planted firmly on the ground
Never let yourself wake from your daydreams
And to know when to let go

And so, young one, I tell you these things as my own legacy
Alway smile, for it is the best kind of cosmetic
Show your true self, no matter what others think of you
Your talents are a gift, give them to others in good faith
Trust the ones you love the most
And don't ever give up on what you dream of having

This is my legacy that I give to you.

Last updated: April 20, 2016

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