On Wednesday May 29, a gathering of enthusiastic students, their parents, teachers and admirers of the Good Gray Poet assembled to hear the High School Poetry Contest Winners read their winning pieces. However, we also wanted to make sure that their wonderful poems were made available to the wider public. Read on to enjoy!

The winning poets from left to right: Sophie Fred, Abigail Riley, Ella Clark, Dylin Cho, and Charlie West.

First Prize: Dylin Cho, 12th Grade
Kingsway Regional HS

The Morning Sings in My Room

When I sit there in that cold, bright room, in the shine of warm morning
light bouncing off the pale walls of the underground,
while the stream of sleepy, chilled air trails through the room –
And when I sit there in loose clothes and a familiar fuzzy cardigan,
having escaped the light of fluorescents,
my heart warms with the comfort of home.
And when I sit there with a stolen can of blue sugarless sweet,
as it spikes on my tongue and a slight burn from the cold metal on hand,
it calls –
the cold cracks and fizz of the elixir within sings and invites the hours
to pass in careless bliss.
And when I sit there, I am alone and surrounded by friends –
Spending time wasting time,
letting music play and loop while voices drone on –
and on.
And when I sit there alone with friends, we talk and we laugh on mute –
our dreams and aspirations flow through the air,
while copy paper turns into meaningful careless fun –
marked with coarse graphite and oil of skin.
In the chilled air of lonely friendship,
I am alone and we are together – at once,
in that room of hazy morning song.


Second Prize: Ella Clark, 10th grade
Kingsway Regional HS

Walking Freely 
I think I’ll go for a walk today.
Through the warm cocoon of air enveloping me,
Through sheets of wind sliding across my arms and legs,
I’ll walk past the lake, spotted with turtles and geese.
I’ll weave through the thorn bushes, luscious red and green;
I’ll climb up to the train tracks, clawing upward through the dirt,
And I’ll start forward, hopping from plank to plank,
On the wooden tracks, lain there forever ago,
In endless rows, as far as the eye can see.
There, I can hear the frogs’ immense chorus all around,
All around the tall trees creaking softly,
Creaking softly the metal rods connecting the wood planks,
The wood planks that are soft and dark with years of rain,
Years of rain that bore the frogs and the trees and the grass and flourishing life—
And death, the piles of bones that line my path, creatures that walked where I walk,
But walked no further than there.
Here is a place connecting the past, the dead, the beautiful,
With the present, the living, the walking,
And the future, the path reaching endlessly into a horizon blue and red and yellow and pink,
Spread over with clouds glistening, air sparkling, with hazy stars and mist.


Third Prize: Charlie West, 12th grade
Kingsway Regional HS

The Wall
A brilliant radiance calls down to me from atop the mighty Wall,
Invading my mind, drawing me ever closer.
I stand at the bottom and stare up,
I curse, I yell, I plant my foot on the first hold
And begin the impossible Climb.
The ground recedes as my crusade continues; I forget where I started,
My Mind immersed solely in my task.
The wind bites, the heat burns, the time eats away at my being,
As my soul becomes my journey.
Once the blood seeps from my fingernails to the stone
And the tears cut rivers in the dust on my face.
I turn,
And for the first time I see the other climbers.
Many of them struggle, some of them fall, but one stands out.
Blood still drips from his fingers and sweat from his brow, but he sheds no tears.
He sees me watching; he smiles.


Honorable Mention No. 1: Abigail Riley, 10th grade
Camden Catholic High School

“Remember that you are Earth, and to Earth you shall return”
If Willow’s tears were wiped by human palms,
Would she hold them in her leafy curtains?
Or would we tap her for sap, without qualms
And adorn our fingers with her tree rings.
Iceberg tips pierce through the ozone layer,
puncture shoulder pads too busy to shrug,
bleed oily tears into murky cider,
for us to drink in Willow’s grainy mug.
My protests freeze over in winter stark
so to chlorophyll, Willow turns my tears.
Left for sappy scabs, they pick off my bark,
till my rhytidome armor disappears.
Wielding Willow’s staff and Moses’ rock,
Go! Down their rose-tinted glasses I knock.


Honorable Mention No. 2: Sophie Fred, 9th grade
Haddonfield Memorial High School

One morning,
My friend does not come to school.
She is too busy
Looking in the mirror
And every bump and blemish
Is just another reason
She is not an angel
And only an abomination.
It is one hour staring at the ghost
Looking back at her,
One hour praying for the one
Who can heal her
And make her feel whole again,
Not shattered fragments of a mirror.
It’s been one year
Since she gained her freedom from him.
She is kept awake
By hundreds of thoughts
That fly like whispers of the wind,
And they remind her
That back then,
She was not a person,
She was a prisoner.
After one year, she still dreams of nightmares
That chase after her,
Of months of horror
And she wonders if she will be whole again
As the memories come back, one by one by one.
I see too many things that should not have been done,
A man who looked down the barrel of a gun,
A woman too afraid to speak and be shunned,
A father who died without seeing his son. All people caught in one spinning maze
People who have felt and faced too much,
From the whispers we hear
And the ghosts in the mirror,
Peace and freedom feels so out of touch.
One of those people is my friend
At the corner of a sidewalk.
Clutching her chest,
She walks to the bridge
And leaps.
And suddenly,
Becomes none.

There are too many barriers hiding us,
Too many walls dividing us,
Too many ghosts that scare us,
Too much trauma preparing us
For the worst.
If only we could walk across bridges
That do not make us none,
But make us feel whole
And unite us as one.
To let strangers hold hands as friends,
And in the end,
Just maybe,
We will have won.


Honorable Mention No. 3: Ryon Maull, 9th grade
Haddonfield Memorial High School

In a world where norms
decide how we live life,
Through every day we
live, we face strife.
From the stoic, silent, unchanging facade,
Though a mixture of feelings, raw and unflawed.
We redefine strength, not just our might,
But our ability to love, to feel, and to fight.
The notion, that men should not feel,
Holds men in the world on a reel.
People say: “Men can’t express,
What they cannot address”
But we men need to say: “Enough,
Not all of us can be so tough.”
Though society holds men to stringent guidelines,
We can help those struggling to get by their minds.
The stoic man struggles within his head,
Stress and doubt leave him awake in bed.
Through trial and tribulation, we can be
Truthful, peaceful, honest, and fully free.
He can learn to embrace his feelings inside,
With each stride he takes, he throws off his pride.
Though he may not express all those that cloud,
He is finally lowering the veil, that shroud.
Confined no more by society’s decree,
He wades through his mind, up to his knee.
The thickness of his mind,
Stress may no longer bind.
As he learns to speak, not only what he knows,
But his feelings’ depths, the highs and lows.
The stereotype was finally broken and shattered,
He finally learned that his feelings mattered.
His authentic soul can finally unfold,
No longer bound to a strict mold.
He finds the strength in his vulnerability,
From embracing the truth, he feels serenity.
For others to join him be what they may,
He breaks every barrier, paving the way.