We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2022 Poetry Contest. They are: Abby E. Murray for The War in Spring (First Place, Adult Category ), Chivas Sandage for What the Body Knows (Honorable Mention, Adult Category), Victoria Shen for i am not merely black and white keys (First Place, Ages 13-18 Category), Avery London for Burn This Poem (Honorable Mention, Ages 13-18 Category), Ollie Wayer for Not Dead (Honorable Mention, Ages 13-18 Category), and Cara Wang for An Immigrant’s Journey (First Place, Ages 12 and Under Category). Congratulations to all of our winners. The winning poems can be found below.

First Place – Adult Category

The War in Spring
By Abby E. Murray

I wanted the war to be over
so I stepped outside where it is
mid-March in the capital
of a country that fights
only once it is too late. The grass
is matted with mud stirred up
by a late snow, which raged
as if it would last forever
then sank beneath a hard sun
we used to know as mild.
The air here seethes with the smell
of rain and the death of a dictator
whose season has begun to end.
Near the reservoir, thousands
of plum blossoms face the sky
like they won’t fall in a matter
of days. Mama ducks teach
their young to swim and know
two earthly truths: it has always
been this way, and it has never
been this way before.

Honorable Mention – Adult Category

What the Body Knows
By Chivas Sandage

“In those days I thought their endless thrum
was the great wheel that turned the days, the nights.”
Lynda Hull

Darkness, damp and thick, hovers in bare maples, sifting moonlight
as a plane stitches the night, drawing a vanishing line from far away
over the river, over the garden, over the pale, yellow house and marriage bed

to cities we may never see. Holding hands in the dark, two women listening
for signs of spring, we hear only the radio echo in our heads
long after turning it off—a neighborhood hit
by too many rockets for an accurate count,
a reporter explaining disembodied cries like fair weather.
Spring far away as childhood, the dream of peace farther—
a myth to get us by. But we hear the season breathing.

We dream robins return, remember the first notes
of the peepers’ song like a lost part of us, a song once heard never forgotten,
layered choruses punctuated by solos shaking summer trees—
cicada, katy-did, cricket, wood frog—tribes playing through the night
all percussion and counterpoint, regularly missing
the beat, the great thrum rising in waves, rhythms
driven in every direction, round and round, until we
are part of the song, waning, breaking, only to build, to tremble—

the song crescendos over the village, over the river, over the garden
and marriage bed. The same song sung for our ancestors century
after century gives something we need, a song to remind us
what the body knows, what blood and bone remember.

Waking in darkness, the rest of our lives a blank slate—one day
or decades—another chance to redeem, re-dream: we want
that which is lost returned, to restore, repair, recover. Falling
back asleep, we dream the river thaws, the garden drinks,
and the tribes call to each other, our songs all sung as one—
wild and imperfect.

First Place – Age 13-18 Category

i am not merely black and white keys
By Victoria Shen

i am not merely black and white keys,
but a larger entity of wooden sleekness
home to a series of metal strings that make

it fills the empty hallways of the hospital
where patients lie and families mourn as i
sing chopin’s songs through the soft loud-

creating a space where everyone is safe,
families can be together even as
bombs drop on their houses but
it doesn’t matter.

knowing that the bar lines and staff lines and
staff of the hospital stop.
they listen and unite

I unite a Japanese soldier and a civilian from china
they don’t speak but understand each other in all languages
they stand together in all languages where

anybody can stand together in any language
they can be together in perfect harmony that creates a space for everyone

Honorable Mention – Age 13-18 Category

Burn this Poem
By Avery London

I want you to burn this poem
in the American River
rub the ash on your face
and finally, finally
forgive yourself
Do it quietly
because you are a choir
with your head bent
towards the waters
The soot
is why we are human
and the soot
is why we want to wash off
But keep that smudge a little longer
I want you to burn this poem
in the American River
remember to sing to yourself
each day
and finally, finally

Honorable Mention – Age 13-18 Category

Not Dead
By Ollie Wayer

“human spirit is pretty much dead,” he says, tilting his head.
then why do i smile when a baby laughs?
why do we hold each other’s hands?
is it not because we’re human?

or why do we caress petals and leaves
or sit beneath those old, wide trees
or cry about our scraped up knees?
we’ve been broken, we’ve been beaten
chewed up, spat out, chopped up and eaten,
but we’re still here.
we’re Still here
human spirit is going to the store and helping someone with a heavy box.
it’s staring up at the stars and wondering who else has found the big dipper?
it’s strength shown in numbers, in cameo clothing and scrubs, in crooked teeth and oily hands.
it’s power in recognition, and recognition in power.
we’re Still here.
despite being trashed and crashed and bashed on and thrashed around like a chew toy.
we Still smile.
we Still dream of that white of peace.
we Still hold hands, link arms, cross our fingers, hope, cry, shout, laugh, scream
we’re Still strong.
and we are Not dead.

First Place – Age 12 and Under Category

An Immigrant’s Journey
By Cara Wang

Thoughts, words, ideas,
A seed yet to sprout.

Arguing, conflicting shouts,
About the journey, and the papers, my missing papers,
The winter frost, strangling the seed from the inside out.

But the resilient seed survives
The angry winds, sleepless nights, hushed whispers,
For they are but mere obtacles.

Soon, after a tumultuous journey,
The seed has dug deep into the earth,
Creating a space to start growing.

First leaves sprout,
Awkward and dark green,

The plant shies away from the sunlight,
Retreating into itself,
But –

It senses a guiding hand,
Gently straightening the wrinkled stem,
Sprinkling two droplets of water.

An opportunity to be different,
But also welcomed,
Newly transplanted.