Michelle Kwak. Love Stoned Flow. Grade 12, Age 17. 2011 Gold Medal, Mixed Media.

Today, in recognition of Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring a few love-themed poems from last year’s National Award winners to make your hearts melt!


Mason Jars
Sophia Dillon, Age 15
2011 Gold Medalist

Peggy collects beautiful things in mason jars
like crow claws and relief and
a ringlet of her neighbor’s hair.
She hoards them under her bunk bed,
stuffed back behind the folds of her duvet.

A man with sweat on his temples once
came in and spoke the word “belligerent”
to her classroom.
Peggy tore off the corner of her worksheet
and copied it down. It went in a jar.

Peggy once took a long route home between
the reds and shingles of Lincoln and found
a stick that had been eaten
away by insects.
She traced her thumb around its grooves
and took it home, beneath her bed.

Peggy’s first crush is on a boy with round ears
and rounder cheeks.
His name is Jason and he comes to her house
on Tuesday.
They play hide-and-go-seek and Peggy counts
high and higher until Jason screams and Peggy comes
and sees him picking away at her jars.

“They are what is beautiful.”

Jason asks her why there is a rock in her jar
and she tells him it fits, tells
him to feel the grain line of the basalt,
hear the German on the bottle cap,
look at how her lost tooth still has
some pearl to it.

Jason tells her that she is weird.
Jason tells her that she belongs in one of these
Because she is strange and beautiful.

Peggy wishes now, only
that she could bottle the shade of red
on his cheek, the blush left behind from her kiss.


Out of the Cave
Emma Bredthauer, Age 13
2011 Gold Medalist

You have such a beautiful way with words,
a secret sense.
Your sayings make you so perfect and whole,
completing you,
rendering me broken.
I am a coffee mug that is missing a handle,
a shoe without a heel,
still in use but tired of the effort,
all the tribulation of a demanding world.
But you­­—

I thought all was clear,
until you came with icy breath
and showed me the fogged illusions of my crystal-cut
shattered the bubble of my being
and taping it back together
with a pretty phrase.
At first I thought I understood,
but I realize now I know nothing,
nothing of life before I met you and listened.
Teach me to speak like you,
Teach me to love and dream like you,
so that I might shatter the holds of this little atmosphere
and steal into a new world.

milky way
Alex Cuzzo, Age 17
2011 Silver Medalist

Whenever I think of how it’d be to be together, I see this image:

1. we’re always touching

(palm-to-shoulder, lips-to-wrist, eyelashes-to-thigh, forehead-to-belly)

our hands pour like molasses

over one another like we’re

trying to cover lunar surfaces.                                    it isn’t sticky.

it’s warm though.

2. we’re either in the kitchen or in the bedroom.

i’m bending over the sink with your voice in my ear—

you’re right behind me,

we’re dressed crescent moons

bending into each other.

i’m trying to wash the dishes.

(i’m trying to wash your mouth out.)

i’m always turning red so i don’t need blush anymore.

our bed sheets are thick like milk.

we’re clumsy swans,

graceful and biting;

crumbs fall around us and we eat those up, too.

3. we’re goofy & always listening,

waiting for our turns to speak,

keeping quiet with creased smiles

shaking heads

leaning over so our noses fit between neck-and-shoulder

stifling laughter

so it can mold around our teeth:

we’re making dentures of one another.

4. it’s either up-and-at-’em or lazy daisy,

early morning or too-late night

(because i think we’d take a lot of cat naps together)

(we’d also spend most afternoons in the bath together)

(your call not mine)

and in these wakeful hours,

you’d teach me how to be comfortable in my lopsidedness

how to be dirty and still keep my tongue clean

how to appreciate a passion i don’t understand yet

how to slow dance without touching

you’d teach me:

how to be rhythm

how to sing loudly

how to know an honesty so warm it melts in my mouth

5. we don’t behave or make-do.

we grow we grow we grow and then—

we cut each other down to examine the rings in our tree trunks.

we discover each other over and over again,

magnify the beauty marks, dust them off,

place them neatly in glass jars

and stare at the Shelves of Us:

a whole new kind of milky way.

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