2022 Student Poetry Contest Winners

CategoryPlaceStudent NamePoem Title
1FirstSally BirnsteelRight Where I Want to Be
1SecondBingqi “Pinkie” LinSo Beautiful, So Brown?
1ThirdGabriel# The Stars Poem
2FirstRuth UwajenezaRwanda and the United States
2SecondPresleigh HillPretty
2ThirdAshlynn ElmorePapaw
3FirstArson RaiWithin the Flames
3SecondJay PresnellFree From Femininity
3ThirdNathan LambrightA Gargantuan Return
4FirstKiran KoulTrip of a Lifetime
4SecondBella YoungbloodThe Love of Recovery
4ThirdBella SchneiderPredator vs Prey
5FirstMaggie LottGrocery Store Fish
5SecondBen ReynoldsI Hear Kentucky Singing
5ThirdCamryn LaRueClown on the Ground

Sally Birnsteel

4th grade – age 10

Sacred Heart Model School, Louisville, KY

Teacher: Caroline Elliott

Right Where I Want to Be
Right Where I Want to Be

Where I am from

The grass no longer grows

The trees no longer stand

It is a quiet place

Where no one dares to speak

Almost as if it’s a contest

“Who can stay quiet the longest”

But it depends on their lives

The stale oatmeal lay on the table

Dried up like a raisin

Everything is drained of color

Like your heart emptied of joy

Where I am

The grass greener than ever before

The large magnificent trees tower above like a huge leafy dome

The water splashes from graceful coy

Colorful like the rainbow

It is loud with joy and happiness

The vibrant sun shines down tinting the flowers with a beautiful bright coat

Everyone smiles almost as if they had just done something amazing

Which they have

They have been happy

Where I want to be

Right where I am

Student name: Bingqi “Pinkie” Lin

Student grade and age: 4th grade, age 9

School name: Meadowthorpe Elementary

Teacher’s name: Mrs. Michel

So Beautiful, So Brown?

It’s magical

And amazing

So mystical

As it’s grazing

Skin shimmering

Like pearls

Tail swishing

Like calm ocean

It’s magical

And amazing

So mystical

As it’s gazing

A unicorn

So beautiful

So brown


It’s brown

My mistake

No unicorn

Just a horse


Age 10 Grade 04

Clear Creek Christian School

5486 W. Stonewood Dr.

Bloomington, IN 47403

Misty Kelley

# The Stars Poem


Older, careful

Rips the neckless

Quickly, quietly


Ashlynn Elmore

6th Grade,  Age 12

Newburg Middle School

Cristina Crocker-Escribano


In the 3rd grade, I went home with a flyer.

The pink paper said, “Father Daughter Dance.” 

I gave it to my mom, only to get the response, 

“You have no one to go with.” 

You had to duck down to fit through the door.

You were wearing your iron working company’s t-shirt.

You had on a pair of jeans with holes nearing the sides. 

Your bloodshot cheeks stayed flushed from swollen skin.

Without a second thought,

you volunteered to take me.

My mother laughed in disbelief, 

“We both know you can’t dance.”

Proving my mother wrong, 

the next week you showed up to my house,

wearing the black tuxedo 

I helped shop for two days before.

The gymnasium was poorly lit,

and we watched as the other girls

at the dance dragged their fathers around, 

accidentally smearing cupcakes on their sequin dresses.

We only danced for a short time,

but when I looked up at you it seemed 

like you were ten feet tall:

an elephant dancing with a mouse.

We decided to instead take photos,

you said, “Do you feel alone now?”

Noticing I, in fact, did have someone to go with

I said “no,” while we smiled back into the camera 

and held each other’s hands.

Presleigh Hill

6th Grade,  Age 12 

Newburg Middle School

Cristina Crocker-Escribano


They think pretty is

a body both skinny and curvy,

even if it seems impossible.

But pretty is also

a woman with belly rolls,

that you didn’t know suffers from cancer.

A woman who still cooked and cleaned for us,

ignoring the nausea.

They think pretty is

soft and shiny hair,

reflecting light every time you pass by.

But pretty is also

my mother waking up from her naps,

her face feeling itchy,

realizing her hair has fallen onto her cheeks.

They think pretty is

clear skin with a perfect jawline,

and a skinny face.  

But pretty is also

a face with moles here and there,

chubby cheeks just like her daughter’s.

They think pretty is 

covering your imperfections with makeup,

for validation from men.

But pretty is also

my mother showing me,

no matter what scars you carry,

you should not be afraid to show them.

Ruth Uwajeneza

6th Grade, Age 12

Newburg Middle School

Cristina Crocker-Escribano

Rwanda and the United States 

In Kinyarwanda, I call it umwiza,

but in English it’s called beautiful

like my mother when she’s happy,

her eyes brown like sugar. 

In Kinyarwanda, I call it gukomera. 

In English, I call it strong 

like my mom who came to the United States 

with my sister, brothers, and me.

I was just nine.

We didn’t come with my dad.

In Kinyarwanda, I call it urubura

In English, I call it snow.

It looked like rice falling from the sky

when I first got off the plane to the United States.

In Kinyarwanda, I call it ishema.

In English, I call it pride. 

At first, I didn’t know how to do my homework in Social Studies.

But I did a good job for my black history project on Fadumo Dayib 

who tried to bring peace to her country,

and wanted to end racism.

In Kinyarwanda, I call it amahoro. 

In English, I call it peace 

like when I did good on my work 

and I  became student of the month in December.

My mom gave me hugs and  said,  “Congratulations,”  

and “May God keep you in his hands.” 

Nathan Lambright

Grade 7, age 12

Lake Center Christian School

Teacher: Eric Schlabach

A Gargantuan Return

I wake up,

and I get in my escape pod.

The aurora spaceship is exploding as I speak!

I fall to planet 4546B,

and I get knocked unconscious.

I wake up, and I’m surrounded by water.

I start gathering resources,

and I make a mini submarine.

The Aurora’s core explodes!

I hear a faint roar in the distance.

I get in my mini submarine,

and I head toward the roar.

When I get there it drops off to darkness,

and I hear the loudest roar I have ever heard!

It fractures the glass in my helmet,

but I am not scared.

I drift into the darkness and…

there it is.

The Gargantuan Leviathan.

At 2+ kilometers long,

it turns its massive head at me.

Its eyes are tracking me,

and the stripes on its body illuminated red.

It is attacking me!

I put my submarine on max power.

but as I turn,

its mouth was wide open!…


Jay Presnell

8th Grade,  Age 14

Newburg Middle School

Cristina Crocker-Escribano

Free From Femininity

When I look in the mirror, my face burns.

My heart races. My body gets hot.

I see my mom.

She tells me to brush my hair.

I see Cassie.

She tells me to buy shea moisture shampoo and conditioner. 

Looking in the mirror,

I imagine the person everyone wants me to be.

My hair is curled at the tips. I feel tired and restless.

I’m in a skirt with a skin-tight tank top with a jean jacket on top.

I imagine a version of myself I want to be.

One side of my hair is cut above the ear.

The other side is buzzed off.

I am  in a blazer, with a t-shirt and jeans underneath.

I am free of femininity. 

There is a battle, inside me:

Should I tell my parents that I’m not a girl or a guy?

Will they accept me?

I don’t want to put myself through the pain

of my mom telling me, “I’ll always be her little girl.”

I can’t tell my parents why I want a haircut.

But when the stylist finally cuts my hair

it feels like a moment of release.

I’m not being held back anymore.

Seeing all the hair on the floor 

makes me feel alive.

My shoulders feel light.

I can hold them up high.

I take a look at myself in the mirror.

I see the person I’ve always wanted to be

smiling back.

Arson Rai

8th Grade,  Age 13

Newburg Middle School

Cristina Crocker-Escribano

Within the Flames

I want to go back home

where every family member is sitting in the living room, 

Ama with  her messy hair that she gave me,

her sunshine smile,

and her gold nose piercing shaped like a flower.

I wonder what’s on her mind.

Ran stares at us, sometimes laughing. 

His dark eyes turn into crescent moons.

I can see his grin getting bigger.

Nar is sitting in a chair, her hands in her lap.

In her black hair, I can still see a little bit of white.

I smell the pork my brothers are cooking.

The table is full with soft, steamy momos, 

samosas shaped like triangles,

roti, fried potatoes, and dal bhat.

We talk about the old times when we were in Nepal, 

remembering when elephants went into our refugee camp 

and stomped down five houses made out of bamboo with hay. 

Our house didn’t get stomped on

but a trail of darkness goes inside it

when the woman who gave me and my siblings life dies.

To honor my Ama, we have offerings.

We each have a single white flower in our hands.

In front of us is the shrine to my mother:

a little house of sticks and hay

with her pictures inside.

We light little candles 

made by my grandparents and siblings,

and slowly put them on a golden plate. 

I watch the fire burn as I see my family within the flames.

Bella Youngblood

Student grade and age – Ninth grader, fifteen years old

School name – Assumption High School

Teacher’s name – Allison Stevenson

The Love of Recovery

You start off marking your milestones and goals on a calendar April 21st you’ll finally clean your bedroom, May 3rd you’ll go to someone’s house again and not feel guilty when you eat in front of them.

While falling in love with your plan you never realize you’re falling deeper into a pit of stress when the date of a milestone comes up and you have yet to complete it or begin it.

With the stomp of your foot on the floor as you bite your nails in nervousness because you believed you begin to love yourself and recovery just as much as the documents said.

By the time you skip the fourth milestone and reschedule it you begin to hate the idea of loving recovery, as you watch in an envy state of people enjoying life while you struggle to see your floor again.

By the time the next school year begins you’re in a deeper ditch then you were before, writing in a journal at 2 AM on a school night with greasy hair and unbrushed teeth because you didn’t love recovery enough to give it a chance.

While guilt sunk to your heart that told you loving your youth was your best bet in dire situations, you ignore it crying with the thought of giving up on recovery and going back into the safety of an unhealthy lifestyle.

At times you’ll miss the slam of a door and sliding down, crying, covering your ears, and knowing your only thoughts berate you.

Bella Schneider 

10th grade, 15 


Mrs Bennett 

Predator vs Prey

I have always seen myself as prey.

Among the predators,

I must hide my spot on the food chain,

Even though you can smell my blood, 

So I try to never let it spill from my skin. 

You are the wolf,

So they will always see me at fault for letting you in, 

For trusting the obvious enemy, 

No one is to blame for the devouring,

But my blood and DNA were left on the living room floor.

A wolf must be a wolf,

And take his food with dignity, 

Honor the flavors on each victim before worrying about the next,

And touch every vessel they must,

For it is his birthright to eat his choice. 

A mouse will always be a mouse,

And take her life with embarrassment, 

But tempt her prey with her senses for the taste of power and control,

And lie under every oath she must, 

For it is her birth right to fear the paws of her unchosen lover. 

Once it is time for prey to face her undeniable, 

Does she give in for fear? 

Tired of the everyday fight to defeat this very moment, 

And lay in solidarity, 

As the predator engages in his excused mistake. 

“Why wasn’t it different?” she asked. 

“Just look at you,” he responded.

Kiran Koul

Trip of a Lifetime

(In memory of D.V. and M.V.)

Fifty years we waited for our trip of a lifetime.
That unbridled excitement in your eyes as we first boarded
mellowed into autumnal warmth
as the train rocked us into a gentle serenity:
reminding me of our days off the Georgia coast
where the tides receded and retreated,
uncovering what mattered in life.

Our small island seemed so distant. Periwinkle blue skies of the Midwest
swallowed the flat land whole as the sun sank into
fields of bronze and rust. Vast prairies lingered on the touch of clouds
as the horizon merged with the Earth. Milwaukee’s chipped brick warehouses and
Minot hay bales slipped by the window frames. We watched as the steel gray cars glided past
sparse skinny trees, stretching the seconds between each smile and sigh.

The observation car was our favorite place for conversation:
recollections of days in the office and classroom
punctuated by low lying fences and
good natured jokes about the packaged food served in the dining car.
We had dreamt of this trip for so long.

As the ridges and fields flew by, I enjoyed every moment. You sweetened
all those hours, like sugar in our afternoon tea.
We happily recounted our blessings and
drew excitement from the promise of adventures to come.
But all those map and travel videos
could have never predicted our destination,
where we expected to see the kaleidoscopic hues of a western sunset,
only dust.

The brightest star descends, but we will see it again.
Not above the dry brush and twisted metal of Joplin, but somewhere more divine.
I am still content, holding your hand, embracing this journey,
at the end of our empire.

Ben Reynolds

I Hear Kentucky Singing

I hear Kentucky Singing, the many voices are so clear,
The farmer plowing his fields in the morning,
His children, waking hours before school to milk the cows.
I see the soot blackened faces of the coal miners.
I hear the famed slogan, “Coal keeps the lights on.” coming from deep under the mountains.
The Horse trainers, washing, scrubbing, rinsing, feeding, riding.
Preparing the horses to maybe one day be famous as they gallop across the track.
The trumpet singing its recognizable tune, calling the horses to the post.
The crowds cheering, screaming, filled with anticipation during the fastest two minutes in sports.
The distillers pouring their songs into barrels to be aged in great warehouses for the next generation to hear.
The crack of a ball off of a special piece of wood spun into a bat.
Kentucky leaving its stamp on the ball, as it flies out of stadiums across the nation.
The roaring of the engines from one of the finest sports cars in America, made only in our very own state.
I hear the long forgotten cries of soldiers, dying in battle not too far from home.
I see the last breath seep out, the war drags along.
The weeping of the widows, siblings, mothers, fathers, all who lost someone special to them.
I feel the hatred every March, coming from die hard basketball fans.
I can still see the disappointment and astonishment on their faces, 30 years ago, when a man by the name of Laetner hit his famed shot.
I hear nature, everywhere.
The drips from stalactites in the thousands of caves under our state.
The strong current of the Ohio as it winds across our northern border.
The gentle lapping of waves against the shores of our many lakes, natural and man made.
I hear boat engines revving as the fishermen try to get a jump on the bass, the sun barely peeking over the horizon.
I hear the chirping of the Cardinal, the growling of the bobcat, and the neighing of the horses.
I hear the twigs breaking deep in the forest as the deer try their hardest to elude the Kentucky Hunters.
These are the songs I’ve grown up to.
These songs are familiar to me.
I hear Kentucky singing, each voice a different song.
Each song, so distinct and unique.
Yet they come together, forming that familiar tune, the music of Kentucky, one great concert to hear.

Camryn LaRue

12th grade and 17 years old

Assumption Highschool

Mrs. Hughbanks

Clown on the Ground

Honk to the beep

Leap to the heap

Body cringes hard

Makeup runs down

Creating a pool

Oh, to be the fool




Loser to the boars

Cackles of the encores

Oh, to be the fool

Writhing on the colored floor

Maggie Lott


12th grade, 17 years old

Daviess County High School

Julie Ford (creative writing teacher)

Grocery Store Fish

Are we all living in a grocery store fish Aisle?

Toddlers standing up in carts pushed by their parents,

Squeal as they press their sticky play doh fingers against your plexiglass,

Leaving a semi permanent imprint of the disrespect.

They blatantly ignore the ‘Do not touch the glass’ sign

Maybe because they cannot read,

Or maybe because their happiness is more important than yours.

Then they will stroll away, soon to forget that they ever saw you,

Without offering an apology for the headache they gave you.

Later tonight, when the store is more quiet,

A tired employee in a blue uniform will scoop out the

Fish who have stopped swimming; who are floating belly-up.

Nobody mourns for them, I fear they will not get a proper funeral,

And I am sure that those who pass by tomorrow

Will not wallow in their absence.

Tonight, when the last employee leaves & the

Fluorescent lights click off, and the last door shuts,

We will remain here.

Hopeful that someone will scoop us up while we can still swim,

That we will be able to leave this purgatory intact,

That the people tomorrow will not




But then, maybe this is all that there is,

Maybe it is enough to bring joy to the passerby,

Maybe we weren’t meant for domestication,

But maybe this is EXACTLY what we were meant for.

Back to Spring 2023 Issue

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