poem by Alex Cohen (age 15)

In elementary school
We stood—just pushing five feet tall—
Against the rusted fence of the basketball court,
And teams were picked.

Come, you can all join in—
Except for you, the bookworm,
Who would rather have his face buried in dusty pages
Than the dust of a soccer field.

And you, the fat one:
You run slower than the honey you eat.

In fact, nobody different can play:
The blind, the deaf, the crippled, the Jew,
The ugly, the poor, the mature, and you.

In high school, we sat in our first-floor bedrooms—
Not posh or popular, but plaintive and poor.
We saw, through our tears,
Iridescent lights cascading out of open windows.

Explicit party music abused our eardrums
As girls we used to color with stumbled home drunk.
We ostensibly believed we were better, but that wasn’t true: We were only jealous, and we were never invited.
Not once.

It was as if life were some purgatory that put us through trials
So as to expunge our sins from a past life unknown,
As if life were cries to a deaf God.

Maybe time didn’t pass at all:
Maybe life is the same people and the same year.
Maybe the sands of time felt the heat of two atom bombs
And melted into an immutable glass.
Either way, whether it be that life is punishment,
Or that Father Time’s hourglass creeps like molasses, filled with glass—
The fingers wrapped tightly around the bottles
Are the same fingers that wrapped around the rusted coils of fence.

Still, we stand, five feet tall.

2014 Scholastic Writing Awards Gold Key

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