An Anthology of Poetry Winners
The 2021 Contest Committee
With great pleasure, we are putting together the works of 6 winners in the Poetry Category of the 2021 Youth Art & Poetry Contest.
Each of those writers skillfully applied the poetic techniques to tell a story of their own, to express an opinion about the society, or to discuss a struggle they are dealing with. Through the words, phrases, and rhythms, their poems, long or short, moved us profoundly! Please enjoy.
The anthology of Art Winners is available here. The anthology of Photography Winners is in final edits and will be published soon.
a learning girl’s palate
the world will teach a girl three things
before she turn thirty.
in order they are:
one, the taste of blood.
this is how most stories begin:
with iron staining your tastebuds.
you will learn to bite your tongue
and from them will form little swells
that burn when you drink
your freshly made jasmine tea.
and they will tell you to learn to love that taste
because boys will bite your lips when they kiss you
as if to say this is all you are meant for
and your blood is my corn syrup.
let that broken sugar crumble
and melt away into overly sweet folds.
it will taste like bitterness and silence.
two, the emptiness of a wish.
this is where most girls fall apart.
they will tell you to say no
and to make it known you do not want it
but it’s empty, girl, like the bottom of your stomach.
wish for something better, something new.
see if it fixes itself.
you will find it does not work that way.
wish to fly away, dear.
your feet are tied to your hierarchy
and made it be known you are at the bottom.
they will tell you to wish anyway
wholly knowing it’s a lie.
why waste your breath
when you feel it all falling apart anyway?
rip your vocal cords.
don’t waste your breath on a wish.
three, the price of a girl.
this is where most stories end:
with hurting, and wanting, and hurting some more.
you will feel the hunger of desire
and the desire of hunger
and you will not know which is sweeter
until both pool in your belly like a sickening ache.
you will learn your worth
and you will find that that worth is little more
than the sugars they poor into coffees.
they’ll desire less of you but taste more
because their bitterness will stand through like
a lingering taste.
taste the blood.
taste the emptiness.
taste the girl.
these are the three tastes
the world spoon feeds
into girls’ little mouths
and tells us to distinguish.
tell me which is the sweetest
when the world has taught me
not to open my mouth at all.
tell me how to piece apart
the palate of a learning girl?
a learning girl’s palate
Elicia C. (New York, NY)
First Place Winner
i. Hundreds of thousands of paper cranes flocked to the land of opportunity, unaware that opportunity shuts their doors at the sight of slanted eyes. Eyes like mine. Soon there are paper cranes more wrinkled and battered than the rest. Paper folds loosen.
ii. When opportunity betrays, our culture views luck as its slight-footed sister. We wear red to weddings, red for new years, red to mark good fortunes. New beginnings. How fortunate are our elderly, serpentine red snaking down sallow skin. Rivers flooding over slanted eyes. Eyes blooming blue and black; slanted eyes that marked grandmothers as targets.
Grandparents huddle behind daughters of daughters. A first generation immigrant, a matriarch who came to a foreign land with only the clothes on her back, the creator of a new family branch rich with interwoven cultures and tongues—she requires a bodyguard to visit the grocery store. There are too many stories. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows a victim.
iii. Ten years old, a little girl loses sleep. Her mother panics at her bruised eyes, is restless even after the little girl explains she has been having nightmares. The little girl struggles to understand why her jiejie, at just fifteen, squares shaking shoulders and desperately volunteers to follow their grandmother to buy rice. No one tells her why. She fears for the worst.
iv. Paper cranes wilt. Inked slurs and inked words slur across clipped wings. Some stained crimson, some painted with scarlet bullseyes. Jade bands like handcuffs. There is no way to disguise a paper crane, no matter how hard some try.
v. But a new flock of cranes is coming. We can only try to place door stoppers in the archways of opportunity, wrap them in the luck of red. Teach them there is no reason to disguise a paper crane; there is pride in our slanted eyes.
Their wings have not been clipped. There is hope.
Jamie N. (Cupertino, CA)
Second Place Winner
“Everything I am From”
I am from the North and South,
from crystal eyes and a chatty mouth.
I am from filthy dirt to shining jewels
From pirate kings and magic spells.
I am from my mother’s styling hands,
Hair and clothes, just as planned.
My clingy hands to my Yomiko brand
— soft, fluffy, stuffed toy cat.
Together we depart to dreamland.
I am from diaries and stories,
Legends, and fairytales.
I am from tin can telephones and walkie talkies.
From finding and keeping pretty rockies.
I am from comical cartoons,
Playing til’ afternoon.
I am from the stars and rooftops,
To eating Whatta’ tops.
From a passing shooting star,
Creating a wish, so bizarre.
I am from sweet delicacies and sour treats,
From caramel Turon and tasty tamarinds.
Walking, then running and sensing the gentle wind;
Buying, picking from trees and streets.
I’m from hula hoops and jumping ropes,
From peeking through the kaleidoscopes.
I’m from crayons and glitters,
Making jillions of silly letters.
I’m from passing through riverbanks,
From trying to fill my piggy bank.
I am from everything I saw, from the things I felt,
Tasted, heard, and smelt.
I am from the things I left, and houses dwelt,
From the things that made me who I am.
I am everything I knew and everything I’ve learned, From experiences through the things I’ve upturned. Everything I’m from, everything I am.
Everything I am From
Kirstin S. (Fairfield, CA)
Third Place Winner
Glass can only Reflect the Present
Stifling myself, I laugh along with you when I’m asked
How to count to ten in either of these languages that should be mine- and less conversational,
how can a culture that’s painted my home feel so foreign
Perpetually trying and yet never quite doing what’s proper,
I always end up finding out by doing the wrong thing, mistaking,
just between myself and I, inherently it feels offending
Can I really help these clothes fitting wrong on me, could I make a life where my mother or grandmother
would eat the food I set onto this table
New money, old history,
A shared present. All three of our reflections in the glass
My mother repeatedly gives me a country where I can be anyone- she won’t let me forget it
But her more important gift runs in my blood- I couldn't be anyone else. A scene, a setting, cloth before
anything the dining table,
or the score before the cue, I could become my own person only thereafter my roots
A permanent label feeling awfully thin; I was myself, and didn't know anything beyond that
Until I’ve found my own person alongside this all, a one and only understanding, a singular experience to
be breathed through my lungs
Different from theirs, but when we’re together, I am living and breathing just the same,
Glass can only Reflect the Present
Kalysa C. (San Jose, CA)
A girl who came from a long line of people
From the times where loss made her stronger.
From the times she clumsily fell down from high places
To the time when she had to choose between different colored cases
The times that girl felt like a mix of colors.
That would mash at her confusion
From the times she stayed in silence.
Stopping the words from coming out of her mouth, silence
From the times where she felt like she wanted to be in a world made by herself
From deep in the silence where she felt safe by herself
From the school where the little ones like her resided
From the places where they assumed she was who she seemed to be
From the places where they put that girl into one group.
To the places where she got hurt but grew stronger
From the place where they expected her to fit in
When she tried to be gaudy
From places where she was trying to run away from the maze of reality
and tried to win the game of life. (wanting to scream but staying silent)...
From the place...
From the place that made her a two-faced monster.
From judging the little girl without knowing her true intentions.
From a lonely dark place
Where she says ̈don’t cry.. don't cry... and she still cries...
From the times where she looked into a mirror and wished it would just shatter
Wished it would just CRACK
So she wouldn't be able to see the other girl in the mirror who was living a good life
Go away, she would say as she looked in the mirror
She wanted to be like the other girl with no troubles.
She came from the places where she was compared and told she's not good enough.
From the times she wanted to just hide deep in a hole where no one will reach her.
From the friends that brought her out of darkness but to just shut her mouth
And gag this little girl
From the place where people said not to be soft
Don't be soft little girl
Be the sharpest sword at a fight
Be strong little girl
Be the boulder next to all the useless pebbles
Be sturdy little girl
Don't be pushed to the side
Drowning on pressure trying to scream but slowly becoming silent.
From the times she got suffocated because of her silence
She is from a time where she felt like she was dying and people were telling her just to breathe.
That everything was okay.
From the time where everything was flashing before the little girl's eyes and falling.
From the time they said to just breathe when she couldn’t.
When that little pitiful girl was falling to pieces
they said to just breathe.
From the place, where they told her that she would eventually learn to accept the silence when it was tearing her apart.
They said to just breathe,
And from the time she saw the end of the wall coming toward her fast.
They said to just breathe, even when she couldn’t
A clump of dark secrets overwhelming her heart
wanting to overflow out of her little pink mouth.
They say to just breathe when the tears were falling down her face
From the people that said that she will learn to breathe eventually
and it will be okay.
From the people who said to her to speak her thoughts.
From the people who did nothing to help her and said to keep breathing when she couldn’t
From the war against silence.
From the war that she lost.
Everything just ended...
It just ended in silence...
Johanna K. (Plainview, NY)
A sort of plum, they say
All beautiful and wondrous.
We were rich and powerful before the communists came.
I was born in May, 2006
Year of the dog.
I hated dogs. But I like hot dogs.
My great uncle was a pigeon farmer in Taiwan.
I always tell people about that one.
All cultured, it’s funny.
All the jokes, they’re funny.
They get so offended sometimes.
The joke isn’t even about them.
The joke is about us.
It hurts a little less when we make fun first.
They tell us to shut up.
Others are hurting more.
Three months later, they scream at us to scream while they scream over us.
Isn’t it so cool to be Asian?
Chop sui, k-pop
Boba, Hello Kitty?
I hated being Asian.
I was the most rebellious kid in my Chinese class.
Because I was American.
I wasn’t Taiwanese American.
I was American.
I even carved it on my kitchen table out of frustration.
“I am not from Taiwan.”
Technically speaking, it’s factually correct.
All those people from Chinese school were jerks.
The parents, the kids, the teachers.
Stop Asian Hate.
I should fill that indentation on my table up with wood filler,
Make it look nice and pretty,
Just like a proper Asian.
I mean, come on, aren’t we passive aggressive?
Once, during international night,
The lady running it (she was from China) told everyone to
Walk on the stage and say where they were from.
She knew I was from Taiwan.
She let every single kid say where they were from.
India. Russia. Israel. Mexico. Japan.
She pulled the microphone away.
I don’t hate China.
I hate those who agree with China.
Oh, aren’t I a Japanese anime geek?
Aren’t I a Korean kimchi making freak?
Aren’t I so many things that I am not?
Someone who studies until my brain rots.
A mathematical genius.
I could write the entre Genesis
I should just be-
Aren’t I so many things that I’m not?
Shouldn’t I just be myself?
I’m far too many things that I’m not.
I’m an actor, I am many things that I’m not.
They yell, destroy him, employ him.
Abandon his head.
Tear him apart, until he is dead
Exploit him, work him til he’s nothing at all.
He works more hard, more tough
He don't deserve it
He has more
Money than you can lift
His house is on the nice side of the hill
You want more stuff, more than you can afford
More than we can afford, in total
But you deserve it. We owe you, you deserve it
Monster, greedy, selfish pig
Rip him away from what he has made
Take him to the factory.
They slam their fists into his crooked teeth,
Rip out the pockets from his jeans.
Like they should be.
He's been working hard, until he is done
You work until you want to have fun
He's shuts his mouth, won't say your name
But you scream lies about him
It’s not the same.
Me. Do these paragraphs make me unhealthy?
Me. Am I something worse that I cannot see?
Me. And You.
And everybody in between.
It makes me want to laugh sometimes.
I want to forget sometimes.
Asian. It’s not that bad, not all the time.
But we remember what is worst, we hold onto those things.
Aren’t we oh so beautiful and wondrous?
Got a good family, kids, it’s been the same for generations?
Ha. As if.