2020 Teen Poetry Contest Winners

2020 Teen Poetry Contest Winners


High School Winner

Phantom Purging

Bile stings the throat and coats bleeding lips,
Half-digested remnants meet ghastly fingertips,
Stomach screaming as her fragile teeth ache,
Praying that no one had noticed her escape.

Approaching the tub, soiled clothes on the tile,
When suddenly met by an apparition too vile,
With abyss eyes and each bone on full display,
As the corpse’s own cells eat its flesh away.

With vomit threatening to rise, downs a glass,
Waiting for her disgust for the ghost to pass,
Collapsing like a ragdoll into a fetal position,
Digits on the scale flashing a blind transfixion.

Longing to walk among the living – fantasy?
Swallowing blocked by walls of insecurity,
Phantom wrestles with her knotted abdomen,
Hoodie, sweatpants cloak in a funeral fashion.

With scale in hand stands an anxious apparition,
And hurls it at the mirror to exorcise her demon,
Single shard in hand, demolished torture device,
Reflecting her resurrected warm brown eyes.

Penelope (Penny) Duran, Carl Schurz Schule
Grade: 10



Middle School Winner


How can you...
Why did you choose...
What made you want...
When did you decide...

To break a heart,
By closing your mind,
The only time
it needed to get in.

Why didn’t you...
How couldn’t you...
What prevented you...
When could you have...

Told me~

So I could support you,
So I could lift you up,
so you could soar,
And touch the stars

But you didn’t.

So here you lie,
Beached upon the Earth
Like a whale.

Instead of touching the stars,
Instead of soaring,

And most of all,
Having someone to soar with.

Marisa Masoni
The Harker School
Grade: 6



High School Winner

Under a Mid-Autumn Moon 

A reflection of the moon, the same full circle—
Smooth and waxen, a warm brown shell with rounded ridges
Circling an engraved message-- just four simple characters.

Once upon a time a puzzle written for the people to decipher:
Ignite a revolution,
Overthrow the oppressors—
The start of a new era.

Slice softly through the center,
Revealing a secret:
A hidden piece of paper,
A lustrous golden egg yolk with a hint of salt.

An inviting warm sweetness enveloping the tongue
Savor it slowly.
The richness encased within is better than gold
Bountiful treasures await, reminiscent of fruitful harvests.

Nearby, the fragrance of tea-- warm steam rising gently,
Wisps curling up, riding the wind,
Fading into the night

The moon, a circle of silver,
Casting its light over all the earth, B
ringing us together round the table, sharing the same food—
Home-- even a thousand miles apart.

Raising our heads to gaze at the empress and the jade rabbit
In the moon, residing together forever,
Looking down at the world below.

Expressing good wishes on the lantern paper:
Light the candle and watch it float.
A hundred circles of light
Rising into the inky sky
To keep company with the moon.

Grace Wong
The King's Academy
Grade: 10



Middle School Winner


Dream—is that too much to ask?
My face, my mind, hide behind this mask
Of careful flesh and dull-washed color,
Of planes of ice and dirt and squalor

(Deep within, something breathed as it swirled
Something waiting to enter the Dreamworld)

Dream—our hearts are still yet harrowed
So let your thoughts slowly erode
Your fears; and dream, to free your soul—
Only then will your thoughts be whole

(Fog is causing your senses to blear
Dream, and the mist will clear)

Open your eyes to the truth out there
And breathe in the fresh morning air
For I am waiting just outside,
And together we will glide
Over the mountains rising so high

(One with the wind and sky—)

Up in the Dreamworld.

Alyssa Yang
John F. Kennedy Middle School
Grade: 7 



High School Winner

Dear Grandpa

And I thought that there would be nothing to go wrong
As I sail away in mystery
Wondering what it’s supposed be

And the conversations never were made of gold
Simply plastic,
nothing to still my soul

And you can’t hear a word I’m saying
I remember in my childhood playing
And you don’t understand the meanings
And the intricacies can be so draining

I lay there. Thinking of the notes that I never wrote.
Hands on my chest, lump in my throat
I lay there. Wondering what caused you to remember me.
Could it be those childhood memories?

I miss you. I wonder if I will be able to see you soon.
Rather than just being under the same old moon,
but to be in the same room
I know it would need to be soon.

I pray here. Hoping this poem strikes a chord.
One so sweet it couldn’t be ignored.
Swallow those tears as I prepare for you to float.

I never thought that little red wagon would be gone
I guess some things don’t last that long.

Abigail Melton
Grade: 11



Middle School Winner

Les AdieuxDream
When the streets still dormant and barely illuminated by the brightening sky,

And everyone is motionless, seeking refuge in the embrace of their covers,
Two soft silhouettes walk out of the town on the premature day.

An old woman lightly caresses the feel of her grandchild’s soft hand.
Every so often, she looks back at him
Taking advantage of his small distractions to steal an adoring glance.

The woman gradually walks slower.
Her resolution is constant but a creeping feeling of treachery is there, all the same.
A piercing and unrelenting betrayal to her love for the young boy who clutches her hand firmly.

Eventually they will reach their destination:
An old train with tracks leading only one direction.
Here the air is heavy with goodbye’s to which there is no remedy.

The air has a silence that is not plagued with lack of noise but rather blanketed a deadly peace.
The train rattles in with a rickety but steady rumble and the woman holds the young boy closer,
Until the two bodies are indistinguishable, connected as one in an unrelenting embrace.

But then they part, and their bodies release each other and their hands are torn apart and...

The old woman seems to have vanished.
From the platform. From the world.
Ripped from the young boy at the mercy of nothing other than a goodbye.

Goodbyes are cruel things, they are.
We avoid them, deceive them, desperately dodge and delay any encounter.
Still, we rarely ever escape them.

And so the boy finds himself alone on the platform.
All alone; he turns around to find himself surrounded by a suffocating amount of nothing.
No one.

His anguish is there.
The goodbye that was lingering in the air sets of as well.
For a many appointments await it…

And death is not one to wait.

Grade: 8 



High School Winner

You should tell the cherry trees

You should tell the cherry trees
That it is not yet spring,
That beyond the dusting of soft pink
and the unfurling green brilliance
along their quiet brown branches,
storm-gray blossoms like watercolor
across the damp expanse of sky.

You should tell the cherry trees
That it is not yet summer—
Though I do not think they would listen.
I know my heart, too,
reaches out on its slender leash to the balmy breezes,
the murmur of flies over the grass,
the indescribable taste of green and growth and freedom
in the air.

You should tell the cherry trees
That it is not yet fall,
That they need not turn yearning gazes
To the world beyond their bare branches
and sway, dancers,
in the thrall of the wind.

But I suppose they know, the cherry trees,
That it is winter still—
or at least as winter as they will see here,
beneath the rain that never freezes into snow,
beneath the open skies,
beneath the sun that calls out so fervently
to the life-blood that waits in growing things.

Melinda Yang
Waldorf School of the Peninsula
        Grade: 11 


Middle School Winner

A Change of Heart, A Change of Voice

The words chip a little off each time
Happiness is strange and far away
The pain surges, but she still has to try
She’s on the edge every day

It isn’t always clear
The blood doesn’t always show
The pain’s still there
More than you could ever know

It’s all a little too much
She hears a scream in her head
And the loud voice says
Come fly with us angels instead

Like she’s in a cage
She keeps the truth inside
She has not a word to say
They’ll never know how much she’s cried.

She fears the mountain she must climb
And she hears a voice in her head
The voice is different this time
The words are comforting instead

The voice tells her not to go
And in return
Makes the love inside grow
teaches her what she needs to learn

The voice always is there
The one that patched up what bled
She never dares
To fly with those angels instead

Milly Jones
Egan Junior High School
Grade: 8


High School Winner

It's Not Okay

They tell her it’s okay
To be something she’s not
They encourage her to change herself
Because she isn’t perfect

So she listens to them
She tries to change her identity
But she can’t
And she feels like a failure

The only other thing she can do is hide
So she pushes herself down
And pulls a fake variation of herself to the front
She is now perfect

Except she isn’t
There is always something she misses
She tries over and over to fix her blemishes
But they are endless and obvious

She is never good enough
No matter how much she tries
And with each attempt to listen to them
A piece of her true self withers away
And dies

Until there is almost nothing left of her
But still she is not perfect
She must get rid of herself completely
And only then will she finally be what they want

So she does
And she is gone

She is perfect

Srija Ponna
Notre Dame High School
Grade: 12 



Middle School Winner

My First Friend

My first friend, my neighbor.
In the winter,
early after the storm
Admiring the smooth, crisp, white snow
Perfect just like our friendship.
In the spring,
both of us
Snuggly tucked in her tiny loft bed
Drifting off to sleep
Listening to the soft sounds of her mom’s bedtime story.
In the summer,
Trying tiny spoons of iced coffee
Laughing how adults could drink the most bitter of things
And find comfort.
In the fall,
carving pumpkins
Showing the world
That both of us can make light
In the dark Seattle night.

Just as spring came again,
Goodbye, I said, after
One last night in the tiny loft bed.
You were my first friend, thank you,
But now I have to go.

Driving through three states
Watching my life change
Through a tiny window
My first friend.

Romil Bhatt
Basis Independent Fremont
Grade: 7 



High School Winner

The Same

am i invisible?
have i disappeared again?
i thought it would stop
when i made a friend.

but now that friend avoids me
leaving me in the dust.
i keep wondering what i did
to break that sacred trust.

i cry out to them louder than before
they don’t look me in the eye.
they never look at me
not even to say “ goodbye .”

why do they hide away?
am i the one to blame?
i’m sorry for caring.
i thought you felt the same.

Sierra Courtelli
Ann Sobrato High School
Grade: 10 



Middle School Winner


A Reverso poem is a poem that when read from bottom to top, instead of top to bottom (as usual), a new and different meaning is found. This poem is in free verse. I chose to write about wanting to go somewhere else, because that’s what life is all about. Whenever anybody does something to achieve a goal, it’s to take their life in a new direction. Read normally or in reverse, the plot of my poem is similar, but the endings vary, especially in mood.

Now longing to be elsewhere
A distant memory of chatter
All that’s left
Isn’t anyone there?
Empty space lingers
An echo of a place
Once brimming with life
Destination awaits
A pending decision to make
Walk along a little further with me?
Lead us to somewhere new
The winding path
It’s worth it in the end
Leaping with wonder
Going someplace unheard of
The happy ending
Everyone’s wished for
A place of belonging
Never found
A home

Melanie Nguyen
Charter School of Morgan Hill
Grade: 7


High School Winner



o india / o kumbakonam / little holy village waiting / for something more / pursing honeysuckle lips / in the dark / I tasted / your swollen / moon with my body / I cupped / my hands / to your heavy monsoon pouring / silver sheets and drank like / a siphon / I pressed / my lips to your open / spine and bled / from my soul for you


you birthed me from / gaping humidity / tattered hijabs / warm coconut milk and / shriveled bare feet / from your / honey-lipped fist and your sticky sun


you pressed lotus / against my wavering cheeks / made me beautiful / you unwound the length / of your own maple shadow beneath / my tongue before / I could lose myself / I held / your condensed syllables as melted / flames / I clung / to you as mist in the rain / and you / liberated me / baptized me with pearls / of glistening sweat


now you / my earth / my marrow / my home you / strip my rights like / thunder / splintering the aching / universe / my love for / you tastes like / softened copper like / tarnished loose pennies / and I clutch / them like my own / shadow while you drown / me / the body you / bore yourself


I leave you / muslim girl / in the wake / of hindu nationalism

Sarah Mohammed
The Harker School
Grade: 9 



Middle School Winner

silver tears

the rain falls slowly, sadly
slapping the black road with a mournful plop!
mixing with the dust and soot of the path
until it is brown and heavy with dross;
silently flowing and ebbing away,
still dreaming of its old splendour;
rushing through the moldy crevices
of the run-down street.
remembering the time
when the sky was shining
the clouds were clean
and the Earth was carpeted with
thick, green rugs;
and all the world was clear and sparkling
like cut glass.
but now the rain knows its fate
condemned to flow
down the gutter;
to choke on hazy fumes
and travel through tight, rusted pipes
where thousands of rivulets
merge together, lamenting;
shedding silent, silver tears.
the rain falls slowly, sadly
splashing the dark grey pavement,
recalling the once bright days.

Maithreyi Bharathi
Redwood Middle School
Grade: 8

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