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Poetry Contest Winners

Read our winning pieces below!

Cruel Summer
by Asa Illahi

hot Virginian summer,

sizzling my earth tone skin

under the scorching blanket

of suffocating heat


grueling work,

swing my sickle






toiling through the fields.

I’m almost automated

it’s like a rhythm

that I sing to

beneath each note

is a cry of agony

I can’t see anything but a fog

the pain used to cut through it

but now 

it’s like the hum of the flies


and never relenting


a cry

from the left

one wrong slice

she faltered

fell to the earth


I rush

to catch her

I don’t know why.

the others lock their tired eyes

on the scene

pausing their perpetual plod

I don’t know who she is.

but I put her arm around my shoulders,

and wrap my arm around her waist,

we limp

what seems like an eternity

down the rows of yellow corn

it gives a friendly wave

almost mocking


we approach the plantation doors

the farm overseer is bended over his desk

shuffling paperwork

he gives us a glance

and continues his shuffle


she releases from my hold


grabs onto the doorframe

steady now

she’s holding back tears

I finally get a close look at her face

the features are 

rusted and worn

by time and endless work

pain is written on her face

she’s pretty enough

enough to be prey 

to old white men


but my good deed has run out,

as much

as i want 

to continue my benevolent act

A prognostication

o’ 30 lashes

is enough cause for me to 


she nods her silent thanks to me

and I leave.

from a small distance away,

I hear male shouts

and a pained “Yes sir,”

in response




it makes me pause,

cause’ i know he’s fixin’

to be givin’ her a whippin’

till’ her body cries rivers of red.

till’ her blood pools beneath her feet.

till’ her back is raw ragged red.

till’ her voice is hoarse 

from screaming and begging

relent is something foreign to him

but still I pray he will.


as I walk away

from the towering building

voices getting smaller

my chest aches with sorrow

of the deepest kind


I yearn to help her

but I know

there ain’t no heroes

out in this cruel cruel summer

that knows no mercy

If I Died


by Cody Herwald

If i died today,

Would you make it holy?

Would you make it pure?

Oh, how the angels sing of our demise.

it's our last night alive, love. 

The clock is ticking. 

We don't have all night. 

So if i died today,

Would you cry for me?

Would it be too soon?

Would you mourn for my life?

Would you let me rot?

Whisper my name like a prayer to God

but the sky is empty.

you go unheard.

May my body be cleansed

at the church up the hill. 

Bury me in the dirt outside, darling. 

Maybe something beautiful will grow of me. 

Maybe something holy

by Charis Wong

They may act like I’m invisible,

but I’ll flash before their eyes.

They may slice their harsh words at me

but I’ll sail through the lies.


They may tear me,

taunt me,

torch me,

But I’ll rise from the embers

Like a firebird


They may say that I’m a nobody,

but my flames will prove them wrong.

They may twist their scowling faces,

but I’ll soar, wings spread and strong.


They may shame me,

spite me,

scorch me,

but I’ll rise from the dust

Like a firebird


They may scorn me like I’m worthless,

but I’ll blaze over fears.

They may turn their backs on me,

but my sparks will dry the tears.


They may beat me, 

batter me,

burn me,

But I’ll rise from the ashes


fiery wings flared wide


heart kindled, hate denied


spirit ignited and revived


into the golden sky


Like a firebird.

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