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Teen Poetry Contest

Teen Poetry Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 Teen Poetry Contest!


13-14 Age Category15-16 Age Category

17-18 Age CategoryTeen Advisory Board (TAB) Choice

13-14 Age Category:

Warning to Our Viewers the Next Segment Contains Violence…

Ramallah, Palestine
A 17- year old boy was shot this morning
Because playing in your own backyard
Is a threat?

Beit Ummar, Palestine
An 11 year old died after Israeli police shot 13 rounds into his father’s car
Because driving on a Wednesday afternoon
Is a danger?

Cleveland, Ohio
A 12-year old was fatally shot by police
Because playing with toys in a park
Is a threat?

Minneapolis, Minnesota
A 20-yr old is murdered when a police officer ‘mistook’ his gun for a taser
Because driving with your girlfriend on a Sunday afternoon
Is a danger?

In Palestine we say their names
Muhammad, Sara, Alaa…

In America we say their names
Tamir, Dante, Andre…

When will this stop?

Trigger warning
He approaches
Trained to kill
Trigger warning
He’s armed with weapons

Trigger warning,
This is not a happy story,
When will our next segment be free from violence?

Drowning Above the Surface

The words they come
I run, run away from the voices
I can’t make them leave
They flow through me like a plague
Drowning my happiness, my hope, my bravery

I start to shake; tremble
I can’t breathe; help me please
I hold my head falling through the floor
It feels like I’m dying; I need help, help

Drowned out the sound
All I can hear are the words in my head
I’m drowning, I need air
I fall deeper, into the voices

I reach out, grasp the air; can’t hold it
No one is there, no one can help
I’m on my own; drowning
The voices scream; what is wrong with me?

Picture Frames

No way to put it nicely this pain
Shattered picture frame
I told myself I would never forget
You and your threats
Weak and broken
Cheeks tear-soaken
Eight and five was such an age
To have such enormous rage
I felt stupid I felt a fool
For thinking, you couldn’t be cruel
Yes I was your daughter through light and dark
But years of torment created a spark
The eyes, they see right past your facade
Try and demean me but I see a fraud
I see a person who once would
Do anything for their dad if they could
Someone who was horribly abused
And still allows themselves to be used
Never again will you catch me there
At the table saying a prayer
Because if god was real and god was right
Nothing would’ve happened that night
Under the rays of both sun and moon
Those hot summer days in June
You promised me I would be fine
But hurt my family and you’ve crossed a line
Is’nt it funny how one finger, one second in time
And the next you’ve committed a crime
Right now you have the upper hand,
But my sanity is hanging by one frail strand
And if god is real and god is true
Then he knows what ill do to you
If you ever hurt the people I love the most
Your end will be my priority foremost.

15-16 Age Category:

All the Little Things, IN FACT, Matter

My life used to be
painted in black and white
until I used a magnifying glass
to examine all the little details
the artist of my life painted
on this once-blank canvas.

Road trips through rural Indiana
became a lifelong quest
attempting to discover a gilded paradise
somewhere in the southeast
like protagonists in my favorite novels

Strawberry and peach smoothies
rejuvenated nostalgia in me
through the swirly straw
innocence lingering
within the treehouse made of logs
as the neighborhood kids
attempted to invade my pirate ship
branches like swords fighting
until one surrenders

sweaty biceps
dusty knees
spicy cheeks

all reminders that I was a human being
painted on this one small earth
amongst the million little planets
scattered like sand particles
throughout the eternal universe

And when I picked up my omnipotent brush
I too
drew my universe
ones with lavender clouds
mythological creatures that
solved quests
conquered oceans
rough waves—withholding the Kraken
delicate waves—a refuge for rainbow fish and
Sirens with iridescent scales

tiny details woven in
the cloth of the canvas
Each little thing is as significant as the others
because, after all,

2nd St
For the people who also feel 2nd ST come to life

When the streetlights come on
When the police sirens become louder
When the house becomes quieter
When cars start to speed
When the keys hit the table
When the special kind of silence finally starts to sound
This is when we realize
That it is night
And we all show our true colors
Our true souls come out
Beneath the constellations

Beneath the constellations and the foggy streetlights
I become blue
Not for sadness or despair
But for simplicity
For routine
For being an ocean:
Wanting to move more freely, wanting to be more
All while being swayed by an intoxicating normality

Throughout the seasons the Unspoken Traditions stay the same here
The sun rises pink and purple
And sets black and blue
With the bruises we can’t admit

The same questions are asked
The same responses said
How do you like that school all the way out there?
Do y’all still go to that church?
How’s your Dad doing?
You and your sisters are gonna make it far away from here one day.
We just know it.

When I walk 2nd St, I feel like a stranger
Should I feel ashamed?
When I am reminded of who I used to be?

My melancholy stroll down this time capsule
Isn’t want I wanted it to be
Should I feel ashamed?
Why do my footsteps tire of the same journey?
Why am I so ready to leave the only place that’s accepted me?
Does it know my love for it will be eevrlasting?

Experiencing this colorful community I’ve learned

We are a collection of stories
Each coming and going
Always moving
Always changing
Whether for better or worse
We are inimitable
Our stories define us
Our people define us
Unless we choose to erase them
Who are we if we never evolve?
Even if this evolution is bittersweet
Bittersweet like the old Christmas desserts that have moved on
Like abandoned autumn leaves swept aside
Making way for a fiery frigidness no one desires

Soon 2nd St will become a distant memory
Soon we will become older and slower
So we wait for the next generation of 2nd St occupants
To unlock the door for the first time
And watch closely for the scene that unfolds
Beneath the constellations.

Anyways, I’ll be seeing y’all!

o medousa

I can feel the tug
Of the halter at the nape of her neck,
The wind whipped at her ears
I can see her drowned body in the bog,
The weighing stone, the floating rods, and boughs Her hair, long and curly, winds at her face as it consumes her
Her blindfold a soiled bandage, her noose a necklace
My little adultress, it wasn’t your fault
Before they punished you, you were gorgeous
You were long, innocent and nourished
And your young brown face was chiseled
My poor scapegoat, he almost loved you
Instead, he cast long bows of silence over you
I am the mind, your brain exposed
The darkened combs of your thoughts,
Webbing with all of your numbered bones
Betrayed, frail to understanding
In civilized outrage, you gave exact, tribal,
Unfair and cruel,
Intimate revenge.

17-18 Age Category:

Pops, I forgive you

I remember being a young girl, looking into the mirror,
hating the reflection that looked back at me.
It's ‘cause I was searching for answers. Looking for my pops,
asking why he ain’t protect me
See, I wanted protection. I never wanted love I just wanted my pops,
the man I took last name after.
This stranger, the judge in the court wanted me to, forcing me to get to know ‘em
Really? I gotta “get to know” my pops?
I ain’t whining or complaining, I was raised on my own to be strong especially on bus stops when a man tried to ask for numbers or how old I am,
I had to pick up the bricks from the sidewalks as I
walked in the neighborhood and make use of it as if
it was my pops protecting his daughter,
I cried tears when when I missed aim tryna protect myself
I wanted that fool to feel my pain, see i been carrying this stuff on my back
Since I watched my moms relapse
Let me get personal
I stood in rooms with social workers counting my
quarters from door mats I stepped on tryna find love
And a answer to why he ain’t here
Man i'm tired of talking about it
We tap dance around the conversation.
Like they bill bojangles robinson
That's stormy weather
Broke bread with my impatient lil sisters who I gotta protect
Cause they pops ain’t there.
I dodged gunshots bare handed, had to make sure my pants were tight,
I witnessed grown men try to untie ‘em im cryin, im crying for
Outloud, I been trying, like tina dodging ike
Call it robin givens grabbing away at mike tyson
What did they give you, a piece of mind
Here's a piece of my pie
Young me peeking in the window blinds
It’s car lights I shouted for pops
During drive bys
Listen to what I been through
I had to face faces that told me straight up
Black sister he aint want you.
I thought it was my fault
That moms couldn't do it on her own
And had to wear my brothers hand me downs

Hidden Messages by Mabel C. 

Teen Advisory Board (TAB) Choice:

Malik B. "Love, Unrequited"

You are fairer than the children of man
You bring me to idolatry
A creation revealed by God's generous hand

The frolic of my lips, may yours join juxtaposed
In the prayer of my lust
Where my true desire is disclosed

Your gleaming smile, replacing the sun
Sets the bird caged in my chest, fluttering
As if to beg for emancipation

My heart bound in your allure
Cursed by inclination
Grasping at what is just out of reach:

However, Unrequited

Poetry Resources



The Teen Poetry Contest is hosted by the Teen Advisory Board. Sponsored by the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation.