High School Prize 2018-2019 Winners

Claire Shang
Hunter College High School, New York, NY
WINNER, 13th Annual Prize for High School Girls in New England and New York

Ears (Broken Ghazal)

In summer we sprawl onto the streets—legs and eyes and ears
all attune to the heat. Love to become less, I am all ears

as we dissect ourselves. Removed from our bodies, examining
from afar. Mom has always told me about my ears

and their lobes, thick like Buddha’s, a sign of prosperity. In first
grade we learned homophones and I confused years with ears,

missing the y, the way mom had always said it, equating some truth
like time with a part of my own transient body. My palms, ears,

pressed with sweat, back bending into cement steps. Once
a campmate told me she couldn’t find a part of my face she liked. My ears,

I wanted to say. I am lucky to have these ears, you can’t tell. To be born
with the width, the weight, years of potential, you see? I want to siphon into my ears

all the sounds of the world. All the words in their correct pronunciations. All
the city sidewalk summer swell. All of the things I say, and don’t. One ear

for each of my two languages. One ear that always catches the y. For now,
I slump on the stoop and wait to become beautiful under summer sun.

***

Anaya Kaul
Worcester Academy, Worcester, MA
FINALIST, 13th Annual Prize for High School Girls in New England and New York

My Kashmiri

If you ask me if I speak “Indian” I’ll probably respond in one of two ways. I’ll respectfully tell you Indian isn’t a language, Hindi is, that each state has its own and mine is Kashmiri. Or I’ll respond in the more fun “Do you speak American?”

My Kashmiri is what some Indians would call “Pakistani,” a symbol for foreign politics that no one here, not even I, fully understands.

My Kashmiri smells of chili powder and cumin seeds fried in oil, wafting throughout the kitchen.

My Kashmiri is never Indian enough and its skin is white like the snow drifts it left behind.

My Kashmiri is the weight of ancestral scholars, spanning generations.

My Kashmiri has a meaning as complex as the swirling pattern of the soft rugs beneath my feet, a remnant of days long past.

My Kashmiri is the “only reason” I do well in school.

My Kashmiri wears Salwar Kameez dresses at parties while tapping its foot to Bollywood music.

My Kashmiri is the blank, confused stares of elementary school children who are taught that there is only one skin color for Indians.

My Kashmiri is stories of our homeland from my father, over the hum of a moving car.

My Kashmiri is a shiny, metal plate piled with rice, yogurt, lamb, and vegetables.

My Kashmiri respects its elders, pressing its hands together and greeting: “Namaskar.”

My Kashmiri has never been ashamed of itself, its voice rises loud above all challenges and tells its story.

My Kashmiri doesn’t eat cows no matter how “good” a hamburger seems to others.

My Kashmiri is early morning pooja with my grandparents praying to the pictures of all-powerful gods and reciting foreign words.

My Kashmiri gets lost sometimes in the cacophony that is America, it gets scared of voices of hate and dives deep into my body, only acts of love and tolerance can cause it to resurface.

My Kashmiri is something I would never give up.

***

Evita Thadhani
Milton Academy, Milton, MA
FINALIST, 13th Annual Prize for High School Girls in New England and New York

Life Rules

Dogs scare her, she says
spelled backwards
they are gods
and gods are meant to be feared
just like food is never to be wasted and
parents are meant to be obeyed,
just like wrinkled cabbage leaves are meant
to be wrapped around thin ankles
because they heal pain and
turmeric should spice everything
to clear demons and
knives should never be handed between people
because passing on death is worse than death itself.

My grandmother has never felt love.
She talks to her dead husband
as someone would a priest,
obedient, every word
weighted with the abruption of sin.
She only remembers they shared beers
and clothes, late nights at school plays,
dim lit emergency rooms and now
he looks through the picture frame
on her three drawer dresser.

I can only hope something inside of her
dreams of cutting dead fruit and finding white flesh,
of puncturing old skin with a knife
that lets her finger feel two lives at once.

***

Emmy Vitali
The Ethel Walker School, Simsbury, CT
FINALIST, 13th Annual Prize for High School Girls in New England and New York

An Ode to Congenital Hypothyroidism

A Blue Morpho butterfly swathed around
the windpipe beneath the Adam’s Apple.
Indiscernible to those it perched upon,
its iridescent pigment remained totally unblemished.

One girl’s throat, however, fused
dimensions of space and time
yet lacked the orbiting brilliance
of a blue sapphire insect around her windpipe.

To her, a Blue Morpho’s abidance scoped beyond geography.
Others had cosmic mechanisms the girl could not fathom
without her small, blue pills, elixirs
brewing an aspiring butterfly functioning on a windpipe.

When she swallowed her daily dosage, each pill swamped itself
into what seemed like an abyssal lagoon in her throat.
Those with the Blue Morpho blossomed into metamorphosis
amidst the sweetness of a nectar, while she remained a caterpillar.