2015 Poetry Contest Winners

By |2015-10-12T13:45:08-07:00October 1, 2015|

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards. Below are the winning poems. For more information on the 2016 contest, visit www.peacecontests.org.

Goka O Mita*, The Tour Guide Gives an Interpretative Account
by Patricia Sheppard
Adult Category, First Place

From the one river, seven rivers flow
to the Inland Sea.  There were many bridges,
big and small over the rivers.
The city hung upside down

in the seven rivers like the spirit

of Mokuren’s dead mother when he saw her
in a dream.  Distended at high tide,
the day started with no hope of clouds.

Monday morning.
An air raid alarm earlier when a B-san
flew over.  Then, back to normal.
People were on the streets, on the bridges,

catching the trolleys into town,
schoolchildren, businessmen, visitors
to the city.  It was the season of Obon
of feeding the hungry spirits of the dead.

A pink and blue light flickered
and the sun exploded.
Rising dragon vortex,
no music, only wind rushing.

I ran with the others toward the rivers.
We were like birds buffeted by the wind.
I tasted blood in my mouth.
The fire was catching up.

Under the bridge, bodies clogged the rivers.
No one is writing this down.  No one
is feeding the dead in Hiroshima,
white flower of ash.

*The translation of the Japanese phrase is “unforgettable fire.” In the poem, some images and phrasing are taken from Unforgettable Fire, Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors, Edited by NHK, Nippon Hoso Shuppan Kyokai, [Japan Broadcasting Corporation] (Tokyo 1977).

 

Peace
by William A. Carpenter
Adult Category, Honorable Mention

My fist opens
in a blossom of fingers
palm exposed
its five petals
no longer a hammer
or a club
but a cup
or a bowl
or if joined
with another
a link
in a chain
of connectedness
that the fist
only wishes
it could break.

 

Discovery
by Kristin Van Tassel
Adult Category, Honorable Mention

My son holds a machine gun,

the body black plastic, handle orange, excavated
from the lower strata of a waiting room toy box.

“What’s this, Mama?” he asks, his round belly

a reminder of his still recent toddlerhood. Here,
between Good Houskeeping and the artificial

banana plant, rising cobra-like, a rhetorical challenge:

and how might I serve the taxonomy of weapons
technology, of killing made ever-more convenient?

“What do you think?” I ask, finally. He frowns,

rotating his find, feeling its molded parts, pausing
with the orange handle on top, barrel pointed down.

“Toucan,” he pronounces, with a scholar’s confidence.

And there it is. Not the phoenix or ethereal dove,
but a wild bird, alive with tropical color, its neon

beak almost touching my son’s juicy, sun-ripened cheek.

 

Instructions for How to Prepare My Corpse
by Eli Adams
Youth Category (13-18), First Place

When I die, fold my hands together
The way children fold their hands behind their necks,
Playing dead beside bloody boots
Until bombs stop dropping.

When I die, don’t tell anyone my name.
Reduce me to a decimal, a dot in a numerical
reduction you can deliver straight-faced through television screens.
Add mine to a stack of unnamed bodies
With clipped wings and gags between our canines
Because your western tongue twists when trying to pronounce my name.
Peel away my humanity so your conscience can carry on.

When I die, send my corpse to Congress
With a note that says, “You took too long,”
Signed by all six-hundred-thousand of us.

When I die, be sure to say it was my fault
Loud and clear.
Treat me like a criminal, an undeserving animal,
Tattoo slurs across my skin
With a needle sharpened sloppily by the dog teeth of intolerance,
Mix your inky black beast in with my innocent blood
To turn it dark purple and paint me like I’m poison.

When I die, put me in your pocket,
Wear me like a blanket,
Tuck my name between the creases of your hands
Lift my ghost up when you raise two fingers or one fist,
When you salute the tender touch of peace
Use me as your excuse.

When I die leave my eyes open
So I can watch you all march.

Mango Tree
by Emily Sun
Youth Category (13-18), Honorable Mention

“Mr. Lal found his daughter, 12, close to dawn. She and her cousin…were hanging by their scarves from a mango tree…Relatives insisted that the bodies hang there for 12 hours because they wanted outsiders to see how the girls had been found.” ~New York Times, June 2014
the day you and eddy saw
two girls hanging limp from my branches
eddy staring at a river of hair
you wanting to cut a piece
mam plunged your hands in rice
to stop the shivering
gloved her hands like birds
you and eddy once named after stars
and buried in the well

someone must grieve for them, mam says,
cracks my spine in half

by night,
you, mam, eddy a pile
splashing blue tv light on your cheeks
windows wide open sweet mango pit air
mam saying turn it off when I fall
asleep you pretending to snore
she pinching your ear would you want to
die like this
with the tv on

morning you wipe the ring of sap
from her eyes

 

Do You Know How They Catch Monkeys in Africa?
by Caroline Waring
Youth Category (13-18), Honorable Mention

The tips of his shoes dug into the rubble
Body twisting through the adobe maze
A mouse trapped by walls on all sides
The stings of rubber bullets pellet flesh
Intricate bruises cloak the body like paint.

It’s one-two: breathe in, breathe out
Right foot forward, left foot higher
Playing parkour in the Gaza Strip.

Where boys find themselves reduced to
Throwing rocks, an exercise in desperation
Clad in Keffiyehs, and rough fingertips.

Where armored soldiers gather at every corner
A threat in constancy, a restriction of movement
A boy tied to a jeep windshield like a buffer.

Where at the very least one may receive
A phone call before a life is ended
or a neighborhood burned to the ground.

“Hello, I’m Yosef, an officer with the IDF
In five minutes we will blow up your home.”
“How did you get this number?”

There flies feathered doves, coupled
Over graffiti-laden walls and mangled fences,
strung in wire, as blockades, those guardians of poverty.

He leaves footprints in the dirt, perpetually fleeing
He stretches muddied, clipped fingernails
Against the clear blue sky, swimming in clouds
because this crowded, crumbling, clay prison
Is his home.

 

Sweet Memories
by Rachel Liu
Youth Category (12 and Under), First Place

I still remember that dark, gloomy day.
The creamy, white envelope from the government,
Seemed so harmless at first,
But when my mother started sobbing out my brother’s name,
My blood ran cold, and I knew.

Now, as I stand here, dressed in a formal gown,
Black as the midnight sky, and so tight that I can barely breathe,
I recall those sweet memories, of my big brother.

The time when he taught me to ride a bicycle,
But I teetered and tottered, and tumbled to the ground.
It hurt, but I shed no tears that day,
Because my big brother was there.

The time when he brought me to Mitch’s house,
And his snake reared up, and hissed straight at me,
Glaring and glowering in furious anger,
I couldn’t help letting out a terrified squeal.
It was horribly frightening, but the snake calmed down,
And I was no longer scared,
Because my big brother was there.

The time when my soccer team lost an important final,
And I cried and cried, utterly crushed.
But I still got up in perseverance,
Because my big brother was there.

Questions swirl through my thoughts.
Why can’t people just live in peace?
Why does this world have to be so violent?

Those sweet memories, of my big brother,
When he was still here, are only faraway dreams,
Ones that will never come true.
Even so, I wish that my big brother were here.