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2016 Teen Poetry Contest Winners

Campbell Library








High School Winner

Terror on the Train

I hear the most disturbing screams of the young girl below me
Thought she was a friend, but she turns out to be a stranger
She screams in fright and resists the Conductor’s strength
We put down our devices and listen...what is she afraid of?
I start crying, we start crying...the screams get louder
Is she sick? Is she in pain? Is she at the verge of death?
I see the Conductor’s arm pulling her arm
Am I witnessing abuse of authority?
I rip out my earbuds; my head is no longer filled with music
The stomach back is collapsing
The girl screams louder, louder...she is being hauled away...HELP!!!
My eyes fill with tears...I cannot close them...I am so afraid...I WANT MY MOMMY!!!
I see them...all three of them...two men, one woman, and one girl...all huddled up
I cringe, my fellow passengers cringe...the girl hits and kicks the’s all over now
They take her away, far away...she is two cars down, but we can still hear her
I sweat, I grasp my arms, I hold my knees...she is wounded...I am
I have failed her, WE have failed her...she looked up to us...she needed us...we lost her
Forgive us, girl...forgive our cowardice...forgive our unjustified…

Cooper Loundy
Mid-Peninsula High School
Grade: 11



Middle School Winner

An excerpt from a poem that cannot be finished
Love speaks to us in whispers
Feet patter down the hallway-
She's barely there
Yet our ears are trained to sense her 
Feel her
Savor her voice like a child's murmur
For we need something to hold onto-

Love speaks to us in colors
Incandescent kisses to our skin-
She's barely there
Our hollowed hears are chilled caverns
Of heartbreak and longing
Yet we have learned to find her warmth
Wrap our frostbitten souls in her touch
For we need something to feel-

Love speaks to us-
She's barely there
And somehow that's just enough to get us by

Cassandra Alanis
Charter School of Morgan Hill
Grade: 8



High School Winner

Glass Face

Who was she fooling
The indent of flesh broad upon back
The Black Orchid's creed looming

The soft slanted curved line was eluding
But the snake's iris reveals the weakness of her zodiac
Who was she fooling

The aged crystalline wall cocooning
She was never to reach out for attack
The Black Orchid's creed looming

Running across the grand plane, red oozing
A mask of thin glass meant to hide ready to crack
Who was she fooling

The just torment of her frail strand pulling
The scrutiny of her salty yowl from the stinging whack 
The Black Orchid's creed looming

The hand reaches down for it's final ruling
The clear wall becomes transparent revealing her devious tact
Who was she fooling
The Black Orchid's creed looming 

Faye Mensah
Monte Vista Christian School
Grade: 11



High School Winner

This world is encompassed by
Eyes reaching wide enough to hide
Behind the eyelids that squint as
Fleeting smiles fade from view

Now eyes are closed
Yet they can see the
Tattered seams of undone dreams
Tangled in throats that scream
For someone to listen

But all it yields 
Is blood that glistens
Seeping through the tears of skin
Forearms tremble as pain within
Drains away
Along with hearts and souls
And those eyes so wide as if their edges are 
Reaching to encompass how much you love
This world
Booker Martin
Los Altos High School
Grade: 11


Los Altos Library

Middle School Winner


not perfectly shaped, not perfect at all.
callused, squashed, 
dull and clunky.
deformed flesh,
mangled green tips.
they were thrown out
in the trash heap
without a second glance.
their owner wanted perfection, not an ugly yellow fruit.
he wanted a glowing golden hue,
he wanted a smooth, round shape.
he didn't get what he wanted.
the hard, stubbly tips reach up with thorns of skin.
they are the ones nobody wanted.
nobody cared.
he doesn't want them anymore, but I do.
slice, squeeze.
the outside may be tough, 
dimpled with wear and tear,
but the insides are juicy and beautiful,
glowing segments of tender yellow.
shining like the sun in the palm of my hand.
slice, squeeze.
mixed with cold water,
a few spoonfuls of sugar, and the drip-drop of ice cubes
splashing into the pitcher.
Elana Eisenberg
Blach Intermediate School
Grade: 7


Milpitas Library

High School Winner

Taking Flight
Watch as I fall
Watch, you may,
As the air suspends me
And for a moment,
I feel like an angel
In the air that feels like
A fresh breeze of freedom
I don't look down,
Where the end lays,
I look up
Where you can see
The expanse of the sky
Beautiful in its hues of blue
Watch as I fall
Fall, I may,
But I will fly

Janelle Sy
 Milpitas High School

Grade: 11

Milpitas Library

Middle School Winner

Little Innocent Box
I saw calm waters...
Tranquil turns treacherous
The waves culminate into a storm...
Will she sink into the abyss or float on the surface?
Pounding waves keep nailing my heart.
"Cancer", mom says, "A few months at best."
Surfing, plunging, and struggling through the waves,
Grappling for air, the waves subside faster like a softening wind.
Whispering fighting words into the looming sky,
Please God, don't take her away...
Minutes fade, as the pearly gates near,
Still I plead, but she could no longer bare
Gripping onto the remants of hope, tumbling to shore...
It's inevitable.
Silence...Grandma's gone...My unheard tears hinder my soul.
Waves overwhelming...
Helen Hu
 Basis Independent Silicon Valley

Grade: 7

Morgan Hill LIBRARY

High School Winner

What Makes Me

I am from chopsticks,
from fresh baked cookies and fish sauce.
I am from the forest behind our old house,
I am from the jasmine.
The oak tree whose long limbs I remember,
swaying in the summer breeze.

I'm from hot pot and family dinners,
from Ma and Grandma.
I'm from cooking and baking
and from feeding your grandchildren.

I'm from "watching your cousins" and "eat more noodles",
and the Itsy Bitsy Spider.
I'm from family gatherings during the holidays
I'm from California and Cambodia.
Hamburger corn pie and dried fish,
from the Khmer Rouge
to the immigration from Poland,
Each experience displayed
In stories and pictures.
Two Worlds separated and brought together
through suffering and opportunity.

Each family, histories so different,
Yet so similar
Sifting through the photographs
Of grandparents I never had the chance to meet 
I live for those moments
That they never got to have
In hope that someday--
All of that suffering,
Would be worth it.
Madelyn Lim
Sobrato High School
Grade: 10



Middle School Winner


Have the ball around the arch
I'm shakin' and bakin'
ballin' and callin' out the play
"Iso! Iso!"
clear out the lane
watch out cause I'm 'bout to make a slideshow
and grab your umbrellas and watch it rain
hezi, cross, around the back, spin
make you fools look like bowling pins
Drive down the lane
pull back, clock's winding down
wait he's back for round two
time to take him to town
double cross, flat back, I feel awoken
give that guy a doctor ‘cause he just got his ankles broken
look at the clock
I look to drive
driving hard at the glass
quick, hard, no look pass
Andrew Zorio
Charter School of Morgan Hill
Grade: 6


Saratoga LIBRARY

High School Winner

Red Scarf, Red Brush
Red is luck, is triumph, is blood well spilt, is a red scarf of accomplishment - not a badge of courage. 

My mother: big eyes above resistant, round cheeks of spotted marble—the sun tried to darken her,
but could only leave a few specks
          had a hong ling jing –a heavy red scarf, given for academic strength
          ran 400m, 800m, never 1600; was the flag carrier, only one in her school
          ranked 2nd once: her parents told her to never embarrass herself like that again.
She climbed a pole in the dark to meet her PE standards, did it without a second thought, without the
fear that shrouded the pole and cement, or draped itself, black as her eyes and ribbon-tied hair

Nights, a generation later, shadows drifting aimlessly under honeyed street lights,
me pleading tell me more, being rewarded with morsels of sage advice that I scrambled to assemble
into a distorted mirror of myself: ben niao xian fei - dumb birds have to fly first?
not knowing truly what it meant, but I felt that the greatest emperors had brought me a personal weight

and my little cousin, whose eyes have nebulas and absorb and reflect only the good, pigtails that
swing as she boldly asserts: "English is harder than Chinese," but she wants to move to the U.S.A.
I was proud, stars shining in my eyes, nodding, with a pony tail that shook shyly.
          I thought it was better to leave the puddles that stick to feet for blocks,
                    the waiting in underground restaurants for porridge: yellow, thin, so thin.
          There was food in Cali, too, I told her: same as in Nanjing.

But she still kind of liked, couldn't slip out of her attachments to (she shouldn't have to)
the squeal of shoes on green; the birdie helplessly cawing, flung over a net and into a smaller one

Rackets, doors, windows; all, everything, framed by steel: that was the Chinese way.

But I'm made of iron, not steel: my eyes can't see with nebulas.
I can't haggle the price of a fan in an indoor market with discolored stalls.
My chopsticks do noe effortlessly clutch peas, my brush cannot paint in red intricately.

And the food is different.
I'm yearning for the handmade cookies from my grandmother's apartment. And the milk tea, 
the fried duck that smoothens out your forehead, the regal palaces with bronze pots whose viscous
black I was never tall enough to see, the lapping of water and humidity under willows.

I can't keep from slipping with a foot in each
even though I try to do the splits.

Danya Wang
Saratoga High School
Grade: 9

Saratoga LIBRARY

Middle School Winner

The same routine every day:
She dreaded those smirking faces,
Worried what they thought of her,
Knew they branded her Weirdo!

Classmates gave her scars inside
To remind her of all her flaws;
They could barely endure her,
And she lived trembling near them.

All she ached for was a smile:
Her hurt heart hoped for a smiling face,
Just one face that didn't petrify her,
One smile to save her from herself.

Returning home, sitting alone
On the school bus again, she gazed
At the driving rain outside the glass
And shivered at her inner cold,

Until the chill left her as someone,
For the first time, sat down next to her;
For the first time, she heard, Hi Mia!
And turned to him to see his smile.
Aashna Belenje
Redwood Middle School
Grade: 8



Book of the Month

Bookcover: With the Fire on High