Poetry 99: high school winners

Word bosses

Lydia Honan

Lydia Honan

First place


I melt with the snow

the river rushes, swollen in the belly

the flowers blossom,

I do not

The fruits hang low


from the sharp beaks

of the birds hovering on their pinions

The seeds fall

the heat licks at the moisture

We shrivel

clawing the sun for mercy

the colors retire, brown succeeds

and the leaves collapse

to the sighing ground

Rain comes,

soaking the fallen till we are paste

Then snow, freezing the dirt

we sleep

it piles, until the sun returns

I melt with the snow

-Lydia Honan

Though she currently attends CORE Butte Charter School, Lydia Honan says that she nonetheless received an email from a teacher at her former school—Inspire School of Arts & Sciences—alerting her about the Poetry 99 contest. Working independently, she submitted this year’s winning poem! In addition to writing, Honan enjoys photography and ballet.

Second place

A Minus

I wanted the first draft;

the shirtpocket paper


by a pair of stony fists.

You wanted sterilized strikeouts,

White-sheeted willpower;

an exile of parasitic phrases.


you whispered,

“Is not connection, but


I wanted to believe

that I could trace each lick

of black


to its master’s grip;

I wanted to cultivate

a colony of metaphors

in crumpled columns.

You wanted revision,


my fingers kept trembling

when they touched

the page.

-Rebecca Kuehne

Given that she took both second and third place in the high school division in this year’s Poetry 99 contest and has had her writing published in Chico High’s Seven-Eighths Under Water literary magazine, senior Rebecca Kuehne obviously has a way with words. But more than anything, she enjoys putting her words to music. A guitarist and vocalist, she writes original “folkish” songs and performs them for the school’s Underwater Cafe.

Rebecca Kuehne

Third place


How do we know when the film has ended?

Is there blackness; bold letters scrolling

upon a screen? Or perhaps closure comes

from the last line spoken through sunset lips.

We all know what happens before the end—

The intermission, the shuffle, the hush,

and the hero, returning like a ghost

to his mistress in thick-voiced solitude.

Perhaps there is another ending,

a second state where no one leaves the room,

and replacing the crush of popcorn

underfoot, is a silver-screened hum,

where our faces tremble like wax figures,

and the world is locked in wordless limbo.

-Rebecca Kuehne

Honorable mentions


Lonely mornings in the alluring arms of past skies, I can almost see my mother.

She begins to fly.

Lonely, violet nights force me to face my lies, straight into their promising eyes.

Silly me, my mother could never fly.

She was just high.

So tell me, is this a lie?

-Ashley Guynn

3rd and Pine

And I will walk home

Under canopy of tulip trees

And spin madly on my axis

Like the collision of sunlight on pavement

This thing

My soul will bloom into flowers

They’re just weeds

-Elizabeth Ober

The Cage

A cage, no matter how beautiful is still a cage. But mine isn’t breathtaking. My cage is self-made. I

don’t know if it’s to keep people out, or me in.

-Emily Lopez


My mind is yawning

Panic rises through me like a counter jinx

Flying in poinsettia noise

Embarrassment like a firecracker

Sinking into a cement cage

of hatred

Writing in a distrustful language

As regretful as a minister caught in the act

And life begins to dawn

Wondering why this place is suddenly feeling like home

Reminiscing on things that never happened

My mind is trapped in a cage

I will fly away the day I am released

I can’t trust myself to do the things I promise



This is what it’s like, drowning,

I’d be prone to say.

As artificial darkness falls,

I’m grasping at straws and clutching

this struggling breath.

The lungs don’t really do the breathing,

the diaphragm does.

Maybe that’s me,

the winner of a race

that was long ago quit

by the real hero.

The hidden deep virtue,

unreal and untethered

beast of my tunnels,

minotaur in my labyrinth of

close-guarded judgments,

wanting will clothe me and bear me naked

in the eyes of a god I’m not sure exists

every day in unending repetition and replay.

-Elizabeth Ober