Poetry 99: High School
High school winners
After they pulled him, starving, from the belly of the whale
he said, “I don’t want
to look at the sea anymore,
or hear the restless pull of the waves along the shore in the dark,
or the songs of searchers fathoms below.”
He smells like rot and rosewater,
And every morning he scrubs until his skin is pink
In his sleep he hears hymns sung in kelp beds,
sung in trenches,
sung in the hollow spaces of his bird-bones.
Fiona Murphy, 17
For someone who writes poetry “occasionally,” Fiona Murphy didn’t do too badly in this year’s contest, taking both first and second place. The Chico High senior said, “I just had some poems lying around, and I thought, ‘Might as well.’” She did add that she comes from a “very literary family,” and confessed that her main writing focus is actually movie scripts.
Our ancestors built this place in the desert long before I was born;
an Eden in Egypt, carefully cultivated by God’s chosen people.
My sisters slumbered as the stars sank to Earth.
Our father left us to walk the shifting sands.
In the afternoon we stay inside.
In the evening the stars roll over the horizon.
Sometimes the rain comes. Rarely.
But when it does,
it comes like a destroyer of worlds,
and the ink in which our history is written colors the flood indigo,
and stains the skins of my sisters
who swim in the blue-black water.
“Smells like rain,” she says.
The first monsoon
is quick and merciless.
So am I.
Full of sweet pea flowers
and the smell of curry.
I dream that you are safe
and that I am glowing gold.
It’s a mirage I long for
in the sound of thunder,
the touch of summer.
It smells like rain
and I am lonely for you;
child of the brisk monsoon,
you are timid – miracles always are –
and I am a dream that doesn’t end.
I am a storm that never stops.
Kestrel Carroll, 17
Young poets of Chico, you can now breathe a sigh of relief. After this year, perennial Poetry 99 and Fiction 59 winner Kestrel Carroll will have aged out of the three youth divisions. This is Carroll’s seventh year placing in the CN&R’s writing contests. She’s actually already taking classes out at Butte College, and in addition to writing poetry and short stories, she’s studying ballet and taking pre-requisite classes for the school’s nursing program.
A Blaze of Color
Endearing yet rabid
letting his emotions blindly
run through him;
perfect marksmanship driving
Vitality of my emotions
I accept naively
begging this not be
a savage mirage.
Three fateful words
meant to destroy
or to rebuild a tattered heart.
Once said, can and will
be used against you
as evidence, as if
I was in court.
No one can judge me.
To be a blaze of color
in your black and white
to be the sound
in your wordless film.
What, do they think I’m the Cowardly Lion?
That trait is absent.
Mocked, like the Great Oz,
so I’ll hide,
Concealed with anger,
dark, mortifying, violent anger.
These blasphemers will soon curse their ground,
ascend on a white cloud,
but not the cloud they’ll predict,
“She’ll never change.”
I have, without your help.
No more murderous toxins filling me,
filling my days, meaningless hours.
Instead of being the witch on which the house fell,
one walk, the yellow brick road
white walls and locked doors.
I don’t even shiver.
Running down a self-wanted path of unrighteousness,
blind and shameless of my vanishing future.
All the motherly love in the world, but none to reciprocate,
just a fake smile,
So I conjure up discreet ideas of tactile hope,
I’m still going down the path, thinking it’s harmless.
Almost lost in the sweltering smoke,
The feelings like lying on top of a cloud,
But I’m actually getting lowered through the smoke to a burning hot fire.
A hand reaches out, grabs my arm and cuffs me.
A tiny spark of hope ignites.
Poem to A Future Child (Or Present Self)
Talk to yourself as often as you like.
Wear armor thick as atmosphere, but don’t fear rocketeers.
Listen to the sound behind words, especially ‘I know what you mean.’
Cry whenever you need to, or want to. Remember those who do not run from that power.
Be an explorer of this world, this existence, your backyard, the patterns on someone’s skin.
Don’t be put in your place, put your place in you so that home is always where you are.
Feel however you feel.
It’s your life.
They all just live in it.
Sylvia Pape, 17
Closing in, racing towards
Hidden form of humility, to be honest
The desire to go on
But all they do is hollow me out
Your face, her voice, their sobs
Resounding through this emptiness that was once a brilliant mind
The lock never works
Or maybe it just breaks
Perhaps it’s just my will
Flowing out into this void
Once a heart, now an enchanted shell