Congratulations Sarah Dash, 16, for her first national gold key from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for the poem below. Please help her celebrate by reading her poetry:
I. Attitude (Us)
On the subway I saw a woman,
young, already rotting,
hands deep in hooded-jacket pockets,
touching her boyfriend only where
their elbows meet at the crease
before their forearms burrowed into their respective pockets like such lazy young rattlesnakes, ready at a moment’s notice—
unthreatening, for now.
The adolescent and her boyfriend
are identical in position—legs wide, feet planted, firm as roots,
backs resting too comfortably on blue plastic seats, and
hands so deeply engaged
in pockets. They are both asleep. The boyfriend sways
with the familiar harmony of the train’s lull,
mouth lazily kept stiff—wait—his lower lip
droops. His eyelids rest firmly over his eyeballs. The girl,
decaying from the ribcage outward, wakes more easily, jerking
and then settling.
remain somewhat open at the bottom, a good quarter-inch of eerie white eye remains exposed and I do not know
whether the young woman, with
eyes half open,
notices me staring. The persimmon jolts; curtained eyelids only flutter and return to their
half-hearted zombie glare, as if the mere act of totally shutting
is too difficult for them.
There is something striking about eyes not fully closed:
a certain fluorescence—
I admire their nonconformity.
I watch the woman’s eyes stutter and flit
like so many nervous, jumbled stagehands,
forever opening or closing the curtain at the wrong time.
They and I and eyes,
empty as a pocket;
all unsure, all quiet, for now.
II. Tumult (I)
You have a way with knees, and muttering,
and making me feel little and loquacious and clumsy
(like I walked through a spotlight meant for someone else—
Like magenta in January.
And together—we are something calculated,
breathy, something warming from the inside out,
a certain fluttering below our skin:
skin on skin,
neither fumble nor failure,
but shoestring gladness.
Neon, ticklish as flotsam,
You crash down glass
tunnels, driving like my grandfather on I-90
(eighty miles an hour at night; new cataracts)
Deciding like an overzealous newborn bird to be reckless;
like you know you can see through
my wax-paper skin and
I know that fly paper makes a hell of a mess.
Niceties ferment and fester here in this foamy pink maze, this
cushioned cave sitting not-so-quietly north of my neck.
Words bubble and reduce to something sour and ugly;
Words grow, sputter, and choke here under the
needle-pointed eyes of your picture
which hangs over my thoughtful yule log like it knows its place.
Words! Glory! March across my
eyelids until I choke, sputter, and grow.
All this rabble and mess, tremors,
scars, and a certain translucency—
A Siren blasts.
You are a Siren blast.
You wade in and out of my peripherals like you have no respect for rules.