Poetry 99: High School

High school winners

Fiona Murphy

Fiona Murphy

Photo By jason cassidy

First Place

Provincetown, MA

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

and raw.

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.

Second Place

To Zerzura

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,

Kestrel Carroll

Photo By jason cassidy

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.

Fiona Murphy

Third Place

The Emptiness

“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.

Honorable Mentions

A Blaze of Color

Endearing yet rabid

letting his emotions blindly

run through him;

perfect marksmanship driving

the arrow


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.

Breanna, 17


What, do they think I’m the Cowardly Lion?

That trait is absent.

Mocked, like the Great Oz,

so I’ll hide,

these tears?

Concealed with anger,

dark, mortifying, violent anger.

These blasphemers will soon curse their ground,

While I?

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,

I’m Dorothy,

three clicks,

one walk, the yellow brick road

away from,

white walls and locked doors.

I don’t even shiver.

Maddie, 17


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.

Jordan, 17

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

Stained Parchment

Heavy Lids

Closing in, racing towards


Bought strength

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

Misplaced memories

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