Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
2014 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Contest Winners

Vietnam: January 28, 1973
by Sophia Marusic
Youth Category (13-18), First Place

I cannot tell you anything of guns–
other than,
in the slick sunrise like a peeled peach,
they’ve been muzzled
and the crack of black pepper bullets

has stuttered to a halt.
I hold my breath as the dawn washes in like a dusty song
that’s been scrubbed fresh. My fingers pluck the tune
from the creases in my blanket.

The word ceasefire is both too soft and too sharp,
a rounded lull swaying into a revived fury.

awkward english in my native tongue.
It flows from my father’s lips
like the way he whispers my mother’s name
when he comes home from the fields.

There is still shrapnel here,
in foundations of my village,
in the mutilated leg of my brother,
in the way my grandmother cries at midday, when a door closing
could be an explosion and another goodbye.

There is still shrapnel here and more shrapnel will come
shiny, azure scarabs that will wriggle beneath our skin,
but like the grass growing on graves,

life will build around it.
The clouds button and unbutton.
The tattered trees splay toward a pale sun.
Somewhere, the faded melody becomes a slow waltz.


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Free

by Alice Yanhong Lu
Youth Category (13-18), Honorable Mention

We used to imagine we would always be a kind of free,
barefoot summers, playing warriors and princesses
in that flower garden.

You know, we called it our secret garden,
but it was only a patch of grass behind a rusty shed
that Farmer Zheng used to keep his cats in

And everything grew heartily there in that secret garden,
even you, and I, two chaotic and muddy daughters
stranded in the years between seven and thirteen.

After the war, your father never came home. The Japanese left and
you would say to me: “He’ll come back next summer.”
I believed you until we turned fifteen.

A thousand miles from seawater,
we could still feel it in our skins, the summer the ocean dried out;
there was this melancholy laughter in the air. The joke was on us:

Our secret garden had never been secret and it had never been
ours and we would never be any kind of free. That summer,
we became a number: two unwanted girls in a country of one point three billion.

When they shipwrecked us in the land of fifteen,
you breathed saltwater into your lungs
and I suffocated with oxygen.

There is now too much salt in your veins
and your words have begun to sound foreign to me –
s-t-o-p, we can no longer understand each other.

 

Soil Soul
by Leila Metres
Youth Category (12 and Under), First Place

One day my
father met
a man
he said
we were
going to
get a
pear tree
so I waited
and waited
and waited
and it’s
all because
the ground
never snoozed
it always
became the
spirit of
the world
some thing
we could
never live
without I
love the
ground

 

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

2014 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Contest Winners
www.wagingpeace.org

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By Published On: November 23rd, 2014Comments Off on Contest Winners: “Vietnam: January 28, 1973” | “Free” | “Soil Soul”

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