Poetry 99: high school winners

They got next

Ender Mills

Ender Mills

First place

Deep Southern Nurture

You are a canvas

you come into this world writhing and screaming

you must be painted

a man comes

palette in hand

he is ready to paint

he picks the color gray

he always picks gray

oh what a wonderful painting you become

the same as a hundred others

you are a go to church painting

a scream and curse painting

a refused to ever learn painting

a watch the world burn painting

you are the same as your father

-Ender Mills

When it comes to his writing, Ender Mills says that he “often draws on [his] feelings on politics and social issues.” But when it comes to playing music, something he’s done for several years in his band, Snowing in May (which also features his sister Seven, who received an honorable mention in this year’s Poetry 99), his focus is on playing guitar, not writing words. “I like playing instrumental music,” he says. He also likes fencing and engaging in spirited discourse with his classmates at Inspire School of Arts & Sciences.

Second place


I am plasma–

my nebulous existence

stretches beyond the boundaries

of ordinary states of matter,

I am adrift in my own sea,

an ocean of stars

In a spiral galaxy–

arms reaching as wide as mine reach

to catch an inkling of hope–

hope that I will be emancipated

from this perpetual solitude–

let me burst–

into a thousand wayward stars.

-Aubrey Whitely

Aubrey Whitely comes from a family of writers who have regularly been published in the CN&R’s literary contests. Aubrey, Avriella and their mom, AnneMarie Carter, have all been published in previous Poetry 99 or Fiction 59 issues, and this year Mom garnered an honorable mention over in the adult division. “My family likes words,” Aubrey says, “and I’ve always liked reading.” The high school senior—doing independent study though South Sutter Charter School—says that, in addition to poetry, she enjoys writing short stories.

Aubrey Whitely

Third place

The Night City

Ghost trains sailing on the fog

One eye to glow, peering through the rain

They luminesce through a mist, watching me

Then disappear, are gone again

Ghost cities riding on clouds of black

Thundering; bursting with the weight of deluge

City lights that flicker; unconscious eyes

Peering at me briefly before vanishing

The night city is enveloping me

Skyscrapers almost tangible

Billboards of russet cloud

I am riding on a misty rain wave

On a landmass of electric light

Pulsing below, electric veins

Riding against the wind and rain,

I am sailing with the ghost trains

On the fog.

-Aubrey Whitely

Honorable mentions

The nudist

Forced to leave the nudist colony

His drinking problem finally has consequences

Now his only option is an apartment in the city

Only able to be naked at home

Before he felt free

Now trapped

Within cotton and denim

Stuck in an apartment his family owns

Unable to frolick

Within other nudist recreation clubs

His reputation the cause

His tendencies tear down his opportunities

The only career he has gotten

That he doesn’t hate

Or hide away in the bathroom

Is posing naked for art classes at the college

His family disapproves

Sad alcoholic nudist

-Allie Adcock, Greenville, 17


The unnoticed

pain of regret

Overrun by the piercing

gaze of beauty.

Frantically masking

my grave expressions

with a grayish cloak.

Crudely sculpted red fingers

reaching for my soul.

Headlong ambitions

won’t allow me

to be consumed.

Stacked between

good and evil

as if I’m the boy in the novels.

Stuck between

living my dreams

and abiding by the laws

of reality.

-Shawn, Oroville, 18

Human Mold

Book on sword stances, stolen DVDs from the bargain bin, the mattress a galaxy of stains.

Failing to complete any task

Flailing around unable to move

Falling deeper into my own ego

Ashamed to share my cheesy lines

Expecting sympathy? Understanding?

While I create my own problems

I deserve nothing at all

Wasting away I am an island

Inhospitable, uninhabited, uneventful.

A barren personality? A boring little boy

Without substance floating in day dreams

Asking for things borrowing with no return

Potential? Progress?

Broken promises

It’ll just waste your time

To hear what’s on my mind

I’m not sorry

-Caleb Hovland, Greenville, 18


We’ve made it through yesterday, and so many days before

so why does it hurt so much,

To muscle through this huge lump?

There’s too much gristle.

It feels like rubbing a cat backwards

It bristles

Tight under your skin

Like the roots of your mind

Are swelling with the flood.

We’re on hyper drive and your hair gets caught in the gears

Everyone else will live on a different level.

You’re on your own level now.

Where you’re marching the plank

The plank that YOU built

This plank that you built for yourself.

-Seven Mills, 14, Chico