The City High Review is excited to announce the beginning of our annual poetry contest! From now until midnight on April 30th, you can submit up to 3 of your own poems. Soon after, the Review staff will deliberate and decide on winners. The Grand Champion receives $50 and 2nd and 3rd place receive $30 and $20 respectively. Send your poems to email@example.com.
Poem by Maya Meadows-Claussen, ’17
1. Do not date a boy who does not care what your favourite song is. The boy who does not care what melodies ignite your heart strings with love and wonder while staring at passing street lights on the last train home, will not care if it’s 2 a.m. and your heart is breaking.
2. Do not let anyone fold you up like last winters tattered scarf and put you away with the others in a neatly labeled box. Even when there’s thunder and the sky is crying, you are your mum’s favourite summer dress. You are to wear yourself like you believe it.
3. We are all stories. Write yours how you want. Make today’s chapter about purposely taking the wrong bus and discovering a tiny blue tea shop, or folding origami paper hearts over and over on your window sill. Just make sure it’s something you’d enjoy reading.
4. I will always try to save you.
5. Someday you will be 19 and lost and heartbroken and you will think about a place you’ve seen on TV or heard or read about in a book or seen a picture of. You will feel your heart drop into your stomach. Go there. For a day, a month, forever, but it’s important that you go.
6. The world is so beautiful. Do not let the slumped over homeless man outside the convenience store or the stories of guns and bombs on the television let you believe otherwise. We are all so lost. All of us. We all show it in different ways. I write bad poems. Others start wars. There is no inherent evil, only good people searching too hard.
7. I love everything about you.
8. Money turns people into liars and emotional ghosts. School grades are an inaccurate representation of you. Measure your life’s worth in how many times you’ve nearly lost your life to laughter, how many books you’ve closed with happy tears in your eyes, people whose lives you’ve brought joy to, marshmallows eaten, or countries visited.
9. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to stop crying. Cry if you want to. It’s okay. You’re allowed.
10. Never learn to cry silently. Cry so fucking loud that the person who broke your heart can hear you. Even if that person is me. Especially if that person is me.
11. My best friend once told me that the most important decision he had ever made was to love everyone and everything. He’s the only person I’ve ever known to have a viewable aura of light around him. Don’t forget to love this world, to love people.
It’s worth it, I promise.
A poem by Nina Dang ’15
[ american dream ]
green grass, picket fence
dinner on the table and
her husband not home
[ wanderlust ]
she looks at the stars
and her heart trembles under
the weight of the sky
[ aspirations ]
ink stained fingertips
languid ease and weary eyes
notebooks filled with dreams
[ journey ]
packing her bags in
a feverish frenzy. she
is already gone.
Poem by Zihan Dang, ’17.
Images are shifting on the screen.
Children are chatting.
Women are whispering.
Men are sleeping.
No one is watching.
I remember in the subway last night,
I am waiting on the platform.
All by myself.
In that cold and silence,
I can feel the beat of the wind,
The breath of the track.
That’s the longest time I have spent.
I remember the first time on
The road to my primary school,
From my little, lifeless soul.
The bird is crying,
The tree is crying.
The tears on my face
Betoken the intense fear
Besetting my body.
That’s the longest road I have passed.
I remember the incident in that winter,
Cold water is engulfing my body.
I keep sinking and sinking,
I feel death is coming,
Until a hand catch me.
When I open my eyes,
The sky is teal.
That’s the longest dream I have had.
Now I am sitting here,
Watching the images shift
On the canvas of life.
People are waiting.
People are fearing.
People are risking.
Poem by Emma Holmes, ’15
Inside her head, words
Smudged fingers, a mind run raw
Writing’s her disease
On sleepless nights, words
Empty coffee mugs stacked high
A leaning tower
Itching, scratching words
She’s afflicted by stories
Paragraphs her plague
Brain gone mad with words
She writes, not because she can
But because she must
Poem by Emma Holmes, ’15.
Let me be Wonder Woman
Let me walk in blue and red
No loose hoodies or tattered jeans on this body
An Amazonian princess has nothing to hide
Let me be a Goddess
Let me conquer in high heels
Trade blonde hair for curls of glossy black
My headphones for a whip and crown
Let me be Diana
Let me destroy with red-lipped rage
Break bone with painted fingernails and calloused palms
Let me be strong
Short Story by Annie Hartley ’15.
Black polka dots appeared across the Bubbles-the-Powerpuff-Girl blue sky. We all knew what it meant. Mommy said we had exactly five minutes and seven seconds before they came. The teachers let us out of school, and we waved goodbyes before we went home. Nobody hurried, so different from my hamster in his wheel; they just packed up whatever they were doing, locked their shops, and joined us kids in the streets.
I balanced on the curb as I walked, arms held out to either side of me and tongue poked out my mouth. This was the fifth time this week that the sky had looked like one of my mommy’s summer dresses. I turned onto my street, hopping over the metal sewer mouth, and counted each house until I reached mine.
One, two, three, four, five. Like me. That was how I remembered.
Mommy was waiting in the doorway, leaning against the frame. She straightened when she saw me and beckoned. I skipped up the sidewalk, up the stairs, and into the house. Then Mommy shut the door. She turned the lock and reached up to touch the sigil above the frame, waking up the ward that would keep mean visitors out. I didn’t really know what sigil meant, but that was the word Mommy used, so I knew it was important. In the other rooms, Daddy was doing the same to all the windows.
We had been taught not to look at them and certainly don’t let them into your house.
I slipped my green backpack off and reached up to hang it on its hook that was decorated with stickers, stretching up on my tiptoes. I kicked off my rubber flip-flops, making sure they were perfectly lined up against the wall. We went through every room, and I turned off all the lights while Mommy lit the scented candles that would mask our human smell.
Outside, the air began to crackle. I could hear them coming. It reminded me of how sometimes you could hear the music coming out of someone’s headphones. My mommy always talked about them like the words ‘them’ and ‘they’ had a capital ‘T’. She wouldn’t tell me anything about them. She only warned me that they had come to steal our manna.
I didn’t see why we shouldn’t give it to them. None of us could use our manna, anyways.
Mommy never replied when I said that.
Sometimes, Daddy would say that the manna wasn’t ours to give.
I never understood what he meant.
Mommy ushered me into the kitchen. We couldn’t eat until after they were gone, because they could sense our absorption of the food, and it would draw them to our house. Those were Mommy’s words. I didn’t know what absorption was. Still, we liked to sit at the dinner table with empty plates in front of us and pretend that everything was normal.
Sometimes, they stayed for hours. Sometimes, it was just minutes or even seconds. Once, they stayed for two whole days, and Mommy kept looking at Daddy and then at the fridge, but he kept shaking his head, and I sat there with my tummy hurting, wishing the stupid they would go away.
I liked it when they came at night. Mommy and Daddy taped my curtains shut to protect me from them, but sometimes I liked to peel the tape back and peek outside to look at their light. They made the whole town glow like Christmas.
They came through portals, Daddy said, but that was another word I didn’t know.
“Why?” I asked every time.
“Because They want our manna,” he repeated.
“I guess because they need it.”
“Are they hungry?”
He never knew what to say to that.
“Is it their food?”
Daddy looked at Mommy. She shrugged, and they didn’t answer me.
I wanted to see them. I searched the light through the crack in my curtains, but it hurt too bad, and I had to squint my eyes shut and close the curtains.
“Do they make the polka dots?” I asked.
“No. The dots are warnings,” Mommy answered.
Mommy and Daddy didn’t know the answer.
Sometimes, I stood before the door and stared at it, watching the purple glow start at the sigil and float all the way down the door to the floor. I wanted to open it up and step outside to see what they were. In my mind, I saw it happen. I reached up towards the sigil, touching it and turning it off. I grabbed the knob and turned, stepping out into the lights. Mommy always grabbed my arm and led me away before my fingers touched the carving.
This time, they stayed longer than just a day. They stayed longer than two days. On the third day, I couldn’t move from the couch, and the only thing I’d put in my mouth was water. My tummy hurt. Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t even let me watch cartoons, because the noise would attract them. On the fourth day, Mommy finally opened up the fridge, and we all had something to eat. A feast. She let me have ice cream for breakfast. Afterwards, I threw it up. Mommy held my head in her cool hands and stroked my hair, and I fell asleep in her lap.
That night, they gathered around our house.
My best friend, Ami, told me she’d seen one of them once, but I didn’t believe her. “How come they didn’t steal your manna?”
“They were too busy stealing my grampee’s.”
They wouldn’t leave our house alone. The wards around our doors and windows glowed red like a cherry lollipop, and their music was louder, but only I could hear it. When I asked Mommy and Daddy about it, they looked at me with huge eyes and pressed their hands against my ears.
My twin heard the music, too, but he had disappeared two weeks ago when I had been waiting them out at Ami’s house.
“Do you think they’re lonely?”
“No. Be quiet before They hear you.”
“I would be lonely.”
Mommy put her hand over my mouth. It wasn’t cool anymore. It was warm and sweaty. Icky. Like a boy’s hand.
Mommy and Daddy fell asleep, but my eyes just wouldn’t close. I could still hear the music, and I felt like it wanted me to sing along. I loved singing along to all the little tunes my teacher taught us in kindergarten. I slipped out from Mommy’s arm. She shifted and whispered something, but she didn’t wake up. I went to the door, and I reached up to touch the sigil.
I opened the door after the cherry lollipop color had disappeared. They were waiting outside with outstretched arms. I saw my twin.
They were like me.
Poem by Annie Hartley
I dare you to fall.
I dare you to fall, to tumble, to crash.
The night is dark; the stars turned to dust.
Long ago, the sun turned to ice,
Blue and black, with deep burgundy at the very core,
The nucleus, the last remaining fire.
The moon flies on battered wings.
Two feathers flutter on gray, cracked bones.
The silence screams, begging to be noticed, to be seen.
I swallowed the world in three large gulps,
And it slid down my gullet like homemade chocolate pudding.
The old turtle felt lost without the world on his back.
He swam desolately through the starless space,
Flippers rotating slowly until he too turned to dust from time and age.
I wanted to eat him too.
My grandmother used to make turtle soup
Out of the tears of an old male,
The blood of a baby,
And the supple shell of a fresh-grown female.
Sometimes colors glimmer in the darkness where there is no light.
The crow falls more swiftly than the dove.
I float alone in eternity,
My eyelids ripped off when I was still mortal
By a fox whose family I had slain unknowingly.
I drift, unable to close my eyes,
To hide from the emptiness that fills the sky.
Starry dragons cleave through frictionless air.
They spread their wings and glide,
No force required to keep them moving forward forever.
Perhaps that’s where the stars all went.
The dragons swelled their lungs to spark a flame,
But instead choked on billions of tiny, cold lights
Which stuck in the crevices between their scales
And the soft flesh of their bellies,
I have never seen a starry dragon.
Sometimes I wonder why I, too, haven’t turned to dust.
I watched eternity disintegrate, yet I remain,
Intact but for my eyelids.
My mother told my brother and me about people
Who had turned white from fright.
Toes to hair to eyes.
The absence of color.
Perhaps I am a ghost, like them.
In the town where I grew up,
A young woman’s ghost,
Dressed in Victorian finery,
Haunted the house upon the hill,
Weeping mascara tears,
A red lipstick smile painted on her porcelain face.
I cannot be a ghost because I have no home to haunt.
My baby sister crawled off one morning
While the mist still hung heavy around our home.
I see her shadow marching through space,
Four round dots of something darker than dark.
The ancient cultures told tales about souls that lost their way
Between one plane and the next,
Doomed to wander forever under a cursed sun.
I have no sun,
But I am still wandering.