2021 Teen Poetry Contest Winners

2021 Teen Poetry Contest Winners


High School Winner

perennial spring

the sky is frozen at dawn,
masked by gray smokescreens
drifting down the neighbors’
sloped rooftops and hovering
between the tips of budding lemon
trees. a ghost’s breath emerges
from my set of parched lips, that i
imagine as the hydrangea’s sweet
blush rising from my neck,
when i reach my fingers towards
the fading moonlight. memories of
a quiet summertime brings the smell
of lavender caressing my cheeks
and blackberry juice kissing my fingers;
the sickly soft breeze flows through
my hair and brushes it back until
i can only feel the mist settle onto my
eyelashes — but
it’s the hum of distant honeybees that
carries me back from the moment
that is not mine
to keep.

Anna Yang
Notre Dame High School
Grade: 10



Middle School Winner



That beautiful chirping

Of fledglings

Trying their way

through the trees



The wonderful air

Swaying across the Earth

Giving us a taste of

morning breeze



Children’s laughters

Rippling in the air

Waking up the adults,

Human and bee



Dogs’ barkings

Jolting up owners

Ceaselessly demanding

their morning walks



Count your blessing

Of witnessing

Such a blissful,

Beaming morning

Ashley Park
Los Gatos Christian School
Grade: 6



High School Winner

"it felt like forever"

the ocean spread out from the shore, mirroring the rippling blue of the sky/
with the fields at our backs and the wind on our skin/
your hand on my shoulder, mine tangled in your hair/
it felt like forever/
even though hands pressed to hands only lasts so long and touches fade when the sun goes
i thought we could have forever/
if we went for swims at midnight in the swirling, crystal sea/
for rides on dirt paths, on the back roads that suddenly felt new, though i had traveled them a
hundred thousand times/
it felt like forever/
when we sat through breakfasts and lunches and afternoons by the poolside/
with my fingers on the strings of a guitar and the tips of yours dyed inky from the pages that you
when we rode into town and spent our hours in bookshops that i’ll never return to/
it felt like forever/
when i showed you my spot in the trees and the grass and my whole world was tainted by you/
i begged for it to be tainted by you/
cobblestones flew under our feet and stars spun while we did/
sweet, spiraling smoke that flew to the moon/
intimate moments that are lost in the crooked streets of summer afternoons that i can’t bear to
look back on, but i do/
when the train left, it felt like losing forever/
and then the call came and the world stopped and hollow happinesses left my lips/
to shatter on the dusty floors of the room i can’t stand anymore/
and the flames flickered before my eyes, dancing, swaying together like a mirage/
reminding me of the forever that had slipped out of my grasp/
through grassy fields and wide open oceans/
over bicycle wheels and peach-painted sunsets/
across poolsides and over silver-chained necklaces/
the way ink-stained fingers had slipped from mine/
once, twice, then gone forever.

Sahana Santhanam
Homestead High School
Grade: 9



Middle School Winner

Lost in a book
She’s been to places,That don’t exist,
Places that the human eye cannot see,
Places that are everywhere and nowhere,
She’s met people,
Who don’t exist,
People who are different from everyone,
Or maybe similar to anyone,
She’s been in adventures,
That don’t exist,
Fighting for her life,
Or maybe struggling to survive,
Others laugh at her,
For the stories she writes,
For the way she doesn’t talk,
For the way she sits alone at the library,
Reading by candlelight,
But she doesn’t care,
Her head’s up in the clouds,
Her nose is buried in a book,
Lost in its pages,
Escaping to worlds of wonder.
Vedika Chaudhari
Peterson Middle School
Grade: 7 



High School Winner


You only call me beautiful when the sun sets,

Despite the countless amounts of times I have wailed

Begging you for an ounce of happiness.

“For that ship has sailed darling,

And I have found a harsher reality.”

I wait next to my phone


The silence fills my head

Clawing at my insides,

Until my voice empties out an unspoken tune.

For this tune I have said

Countless times


And again,

“It will all be fine,

And he will be by my side.”

Julia Fox
Grade: 11



Middle School Winner

I am from a family with the biggest hearts you could ever meet.
from love and the smell of a candle burning in the kitchen,
I am from the warmness I feel when I get a hug from my mother,
love that's always genuine,
I am from the limes we grow every year.
the tree that has been in the front yard for long as I can remember whose long gone limbs I
remember as if they were my own,
I'm from decorating to early and celebrating too soon.
from wondering how we even got this far
I'm from always believing I'm right and listening to Christmas music in the middle of October.
and from running around the kitchen with my dogs,
and from feeding them half of my food at dinner,
who always begs for more,
I'm from barging into my kitchen to help make dinner.
from preschool diplomas hung up on the wall,
I’m from my parents hugging me so much that I choke to death
I’m from love,
I'm from home.
Madeline Rusterholtz
Charter School of Morgan Hill
Grade: 7 



High School Winner

Am I Something to be Feared?

Do I scare you?
Do my slighted eyes offend you,
because you constantly defend,
Defend those models who stretch out their bodies,
contour their faces to have eyes like mine.

Does our fine cuisine not make your top 13.
Last time I checked you were up in line for some chow mien.

Talking about Bruce Lee, and how he does karate.
Do his high kicks,
quick punches not seem that mean

You fantasize about our green dragon machines.
How they soar and breathe great lanes of blazing flames.

Does the way my yellow skin reflect in the wind seem like a sin
Or how long it's been
since we counted.
counted the victims of Asian hate.

I number way to high
but just to clarify
we do nothing to justify
we simply turn a blind eye

Sabrina Zulueta
Los Altos High School
        Grade: 9 


Middle School Winner


He must live,
Because his life
The final dam before Achilles blood will flow
It falls, a spill of bright silver
Hands flurry like startled birds, trying to halt relentless movement
But I give way,
Unspooling in ribbons of red
My breath stops,
My head drops
And the last image I see is

Myesha Phukan
Blach Intermediate School
Grade: 8


High School Winner

stars and embers

i am entranced with the prospect of a burning world
an otherworldly glow of smouldering ardor, untamed, intense, yet calm
the spirit of each flame unique and unparalleled
i watch the cinders pulse with vermillion and midnight smoke unfurl into the sky-

-blocking out the light of those that dreamily gleam above
i must feel their chilling rays on my skin each night. it means i must be above the smoke, unable
to breathe but risking it for a simple glance of the stars, even at the expense of my body
for then i will fall, fall, fall, and where and how and when i will land won’t matter because by
then, i would already be gone.

the last thing that i see is a cold expanse of midnight blue, adorned with flecks of flickering

then i blink and a vortex of bright embers explodes into being, surrounding me, heated and
stinging on contact
i have burned away too much of me, for a single glimpse of what shines in the sky
i reach a hand up, and, at last, i notice
my vision blurs, eyes closing, as my final thought drifts in,
a flake of ash carried in on the breeze
“these embers,

don’t they look like stars?”

Sruthi Munaga
Milpitas High School
Grade: 9 



Middle School Winner

You Forgot

Why didn’t you listen to my pleas?
now my every sob chokes you
my tears drizzle down to the earth as acid
and when I finally burst, torrential rains sink you

In my fury, I wreak havoc
my arms sway, and craft winds of might
toppling towers, sculpting spinners

I stomp in anger
unleashing waves of terror
I roar until the ground shakes
I am so mad that everything boils

Boils and boils until its over,
animals vanish, insects dwindle
brown and gray, replace green and vibrant
families suffer, necessities decline

You made me this way
every time you threw waste on me
every time you made me breathe smoke and nasty grit
every time you took advantage of life ; killed, cut, burnt
I was watching

Every little crooked way you hurt me,
it hurt you back
As my temper builds, I hope you realize
that the only way you can fix me and your future
is by responding to my cries

Ojas Gandhi
Morrill Middle School
Grade: 8 



High School Winner


i wake up every day
and i go to the Mirror
apprehensive and afraid
what has the night done to my Figure

or is it i
forget the Scale
everytime i go Online
my perceived achievements pale
in comparison to the Lies

Hunger Pains
Harsh, Crass Words
Broken Scale glass
the “Treatment” Burns

Stretch and Scratch
Wrinkles and Scars
Binge, then Purge
pick apart my Flaws

But one day
i heard my Mother say
you don’t have to be afraid
it doesn’t have to be this way

through the eyes with which I see
You aren’t a Nobody
Why conform to Society?

I realized, Finally
I don’t have to be
what Everyone Else wants to see
I am a Somebody
I just want to be Me

Elizabeth Joseph
Archbishop Mitty High School
Grade: 11 



Middle School Winner

Frozen Statues

It's like you've fallen into a lake
in the middle of winter
Your body is on fire
eventually turned numb
You let out short gasps for air
as you frantically search for land
Your eyes start to burn

You now sit at the edge of the water
Gazing into your distorted reflection
rubbing, stretching, itching at your flesh
Just to feel something
or perhaps it may be better not to feel

It's too cold out here
You're reminded of the pleasant fire
awaiting you.

But now
You are a frozen statue
Whose cracks go unnoticed
by those who marvel in your beauty

Taryn Tsuji
Charter School of Morgan Hill
Grade: 7


High School Winner


I learned Hindi before English.
Once, I asked for paani at daycare and
my teacher asked for a meeting with my parents.
“It’s a developmental thing,” she said.
“It’s a language thing,” they replied.
A week later, I asked for water when I was thirsty and
my teacher asked me, “Which cup, red or blue?”

When my mother’s tongue spoke mother-tongue to me,
I understood, yet
Hindi had spilled from my own mouth
like water from the two-hand grasp of a too-full glass.
I caught it on the tip of my tongue but
the words had already dried up,
jolted hesitations
flooding the gaps
between the syllables
with streams
of pebbled commas.

I learned to speak English slowly,
so my grandparents could understand,
so I didn't have to attempt to recall gestures
my lips had forgotten years ago.
I learned to pretend Indian was a language,
to pretend I knew it to pretend I didn't.
I learned, too late, the magnitude of this loss,
this dried riverbed I can’t mourn anymore—
so I learned to write poems about India in English and
pray for monsoon.

Maanvi Chawla
Saratoga High School
Grade: 11 



Middle School Winner


asian / american
korean / indian
mother / father

i am half
half korean / half indian
half my mother / and half my father
half the love / and half the anger

i am half
half an asian / half an american

half a girl.

when we were fresh
and the smell of the salt sea
lingered in our air
they took us in
they said we were perfect
they said we belonged just the way we were

they said we were american

now the sea is gone
and the only salt that we smell / is from our tears
tears of our sadness / tears of our anger

tears of change.

why am i asian-american?

this is my home / my birthplace
isn’t that american

i am done / with being half

i am american / i am asian
i am my mother / i am my father
i am both

i am whole.

Turiya Misra
Discovery Charter School
Grade: 7

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