2015 New York Browning Society NYC Poetry Contest Winners + Short List

2015 New York Browning Society NYC Poetry Contest Winners + Short List




Sophia Bertran
Grade 10
Notre Dame School
Jean Halloran
Poem Inspiration: “My Last Duchess”— Robert Browning

“The First Duchess”

See that young girl on the wall,
The one standing there so brave and tall?
Before her face age did touch,
I suppose even then you didn’t love her much.
Back then she was a hopeful, naïve bride,
But alas her marriage to you made her glimmer die.
You have not changed since the day you proposed,
But look at me now, so much wiser and more composed.
For you, dear husband, downplay that painting,
With your constant and nettlesome complaining.
I need not a husband—much less you—to make me smile,
As some of the thoughts that cross your mind are rather vile.
The strangers are correct to wonder how my smile came about,
Your puerile nature shows; please, there’s no need to pout.
That I give out smiles like Mona Lisa—is that what you imply?
Perhaps you should try it, but I don’t mean to pry.
You may say—I admit—that my heart is soon made glad,
Barring you do not deny that your temper is also soon made mad.
Can I be faulted for seeing the good in the world—is that such a crime?
I can’t imagine why you’re upset, but oh, please, enlighten me—what is it this time?
I refuse to apologize for finding a reason to smile in things that seem petty to you,
You see, to be otherwise is not me, and oh–how does it go? —“To thine own self be true.”
In truth, I’m not impressed by everything presented to me,
As you seem to declare to everyone so feebly.
But a lady in my standing should always be gracious,
As opposed to you, my dear, who tends to be quite audacious.
Ah! Of course, your nine-hundred-years-old name—how could we forget?
Since you mention it, your mother must’ve loved that gift too, I’ll bet.
But, really—how sincere, how heartfelt, this ‘gift’ of yours,
One that has been passed down for generations—and surely opened some doors.
You complain about everything—especially me—for hours on end,
But tell me, dear, does that leave you with any real friends?
Oh, you poor soul, such a horrid wife you have indeed,
It shows when your scowl echoes my smile—it’s part of our daily routine.
Oh, darling, you thought that you could so easily be rid of me?
You’re mistaken—of each other we will never be free—for the rest of eternity.
You can barely keep up with me—a woman your age,
And you actually believe you’ll find a younger woman willing to get engaged?
No dowry is large enough, no patience level so huge,
No young girl is so foolish to waste her life on you.
My sorrow and your happiness were always the same hue.
Yet this is my duty—and I must see it through.
I care not about whatever you have planned,
But, darling, please—do try to make your evil schemes more grand.
You underestimate me, dear husband, to think I did not see through you,
As your transparency is as obvious as the sky being blue.
Do you think it is fair, fooling everyone you meet,
Making them believe being around you is such a treat?
A seahorse is not a human, and therefore cannot be tamed,
No, but two of a kind—such as you and I—can surely play at that game.
You would have to think; it is not merely a game of luck,
But, you cannot be shielded by the works of dear old Innsbruck.
And be sure to be cautious with your precious Neptune,
For even he cannot escape Jupiter’s wrath of doom.




Simone Drake
10th Grade
Gramercy Arts High School

Reflection of May and Death

To stay in love forever
To wake up next to the one who brings you sunshine
The one who captures your breath in their clutches
Who has your heart to twist and bend
Whichever way
Would this be a burden?
To ask for the heart of the other for life
And ask that when gone
They take with them their memories
Of fighting
And dancing
But leave with me their eyes
So I can use them to fill the holes they left behind



Dominique DeGennaro
Grade 11
The Mary Louis Academy
Inspired by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?” Sonnet 43


A Sister’s Sorrow

An empty bed, a cold seat,
All where you once were.
Soundless footsteps and soft sobs
Permeate this house.
I don’t think enough words exist
To describe my love for you,
And how deep this shallow pit
Gnawing at my stomach goes.
How much do I love you?
As far as the furthest star in our sky,
And further yet.
As deep as all the seas of the world,
And deeper still.
As much as the bustling bees of springtime
Adore the fragrant flowers –
I love you more.
I love you with my entire being,
And I would give it all away
To have you back again.
But if Fate has it
That you are gone,
I will love you when we meet again,
In the life after.



Diego Lopez-Liranzo
The Browning School

Prayers: a soliloquy

As another day comes to an end, I kneel down
Next to my bed on this cold, dark night
I imagine brighter days and pray
That my son never has to stand still as life delivers its right and left jabs
That he feels it’s his right to lean to the left and punch back,
That he never hopes he will be what dirties
An all white house—with white couches, walls, and faces,
That he never looks in the mirror and sees the wall behind him,
and wonders if he is invisible—a glass panel
That he does not end up with the rest of us behind bars,
Scribbling on his hand, on his notebook, on the walls
What could have been, what he could have done?
That he never touches his head and hair and wonders
If it’s his fault he’s not like the other toys,
If he is some science experiment of God
That he never forgets that he is of noble blood
And he is not the court’s jester
The fool that laughs, smiles, dances and makes others merry
The fool that wears that bright red, yellow hat to show others

That he is the joke

Junior, you’re not even alive and I’ve already ruined you.
I’m here, though.
I still keep praying

That you find the good and let go of my bad,
You’ll be nice wherever we go.
I just want you to be someone people like
That I get to see you have an easy life,
I’ll take you to the barber with the other kids,
We’ll play catch outside of the house like the other kids,
We’ll play and throw snow and laugh and have fun
We’ll wear the same colour shirts and ties and go to church together
The three of us—
Like the other kids.
That you never ask your mother where dad is
He’s not playing hide and seek,
Don’t look under the couch, or in that closet, or try to call

Junior, you’re not even alive and I’ve already ruined you.



Isaac Scheinfeld
Rudolf Steiner School
Mrs. Carol Bartges

Boardwalk Bench

Before me lies the sandy shore
Beyond, the mystic sea
Whose resolute rock-rending roar
Reverberates in me.

The shore and sea at night supine
Beneath ascending sky
Whose hollow musings mirror mine,
Of year and moon-bound tide.

The rising of the vital sphere
Is heralded by rays;
Beneath the frigid dawn I greet
The sun with genial gaze.

As slowly dawn matures to day
The beach begins to fill,
And people of all ages slay
Those dreams which dawns instill.

Some revel in the scorching sun,
Some wish for shady boughs,
While others flock t’wards littoral fun
The beach with sport to rouse.

As noontime fever settles in
A pair alights on me,
They prattle on about their kin
And other lukewarm teas.

But soon they rise again to go
The boardwalk long to stroll,
And many more on me repose
To rest their frame or soul.

And those ungrateful for my pains
Defile my cozy ledge,
They sully me with diverse stains
And grody mucilage.

But, never free of warps and cracks,
My slats endure the hours,
Though none bedeck my sunburned back
Or shield it from cold showers.
The day is passed in romp and glee
By all those passing through,
But as the sun drops t’wards the sea
They pack and say adieu.

Thus endeth yet another day
Of quiet observation;
The universe, as if a play
of recapitulation,

For every day of every moon
In each of seasons turning
Brings yet another lydian tune
Of mystery and yearning.

Another day I’ve spent affixed
At mercy of the crowds,
And of the rays and torrents which
Rule sovereign from the clouds.



Kamari Stewart
Michael J. Petrides
Mr. Philip Gagliano
Inspired by: A Sea-Side Walk by Elizabeth Barrett Browning



As I strolled along the shore,
Sand wedging itself in between my toes,
I could not help but feel completely blissful.
Even though I knew the end was near.

It was no secret to me,
Although everyone tried to make it so.
I have never been afraid of death,
Nor will I ever be,
Even as I meet it for the first and last time
Face to face.

But there’s something about the way
The ocean never stops kissing the shoreline
No matter how many times it’s sent away.

There’s something about the way,
Even though the sun gets lower and lower into the ground,
Its light seems to shine brighter and brighter
As if to say,
“It’s okay. Everything is going to be alright.”

There’s something about the way
The wind blows.
He continues to blow and blow
More kisses my way
Just to show me that he will never get enough.

It is 6pm.
And I know that it is the last 6pm that I will ever experience.
But the sun,
The sand,
The wind,
It reminds me of why I lived.
It reminds me of how I have lived.
It reminds me of why I am not afraid to die.

As I strolled along the shore,
Sand wedging itself in between my toes,
I could not help but feel completely blissful,
Even though,
The end is here.






Jason Contino
10th Grade
Michael J. Petrides
Philip Gagliano


Eden is in flames
The hellfire reveling its true aims
The flickering lights exposing the demons
Lurking behind the trees
The inferno engulfing our dreams
And the fiction you’ve made yourself a home in

Eden is flooded
Its innards exposed for the rotten mass they’ve become
The water washing away the propaganda
The rush removing the constructions
Which would taunt you
And hide from you the conditions you were engulfed within

Eden has been windswept
Its surfaces battered with the harsh reality
Of what happens when one finds out
Its been made a mess
But it already was
We just didn’t notice yet

Eden has been shaken
Its foundation has been uplifted
It was built of shoddy principle
Of ethics traded in for rhetoric
Of genocides traded in for your destiny
Of a destiny manifested as strategies for stratification

This is the land baptized in oil
Conceived of steal beams
And composed of blood, sweat, and tears
And more blood
And more tears
And the sweat of those we’re taught to ignore

Nationalism’s the old glory
Displayed on the television
We see the fight so far away
We kill the wicked
And take out a school or two
Collateral damage they say
Or at least that’s what it’s called today.

Leaves fall from trees
Like money from their pockets
Waging wars overseas
While ignoring basic needs
And ignoring disparities
But their attention span remains constant
Only when they’re granted consent
To exploit and raze
And that’s how we’re raised

Leaves fall from trees
Like people drop dead
From these policies
But leaves fall from trees
Like money from their pockets
So we’ve been taught to ignore
Even when we’ve seen Eden’s true form




Max Sopher
The Collegiate School

Alternating Stars

Let mind depart from all the steps one takes,
To scour other tracks than salted streets
For paths that pathless yield fields, lakes
And law: what once was earth, is now concrete.

And yet to steal from unreal flare of man,
To seek the night that city’s light has stayed,
Means, still, to form another, formless plan
A plan towards nature, that’s itself man-made:

Lines constant, steeled, poets’ provision,
Are lines of skyscrapers, not those of trees.
So compose an absence from too much vision,
Admit no sea composes lines like these.

Yes, compose with other lights in mind,
—Bejeweled, yet humble, stars aligned.



Sasha Pinto
Rudolf Steiner School
Carol Bärtges


Mighty and tall, with my brothers,
I see the world below me.
This land, this forest and others,
We rule by natural decree.

I am the tallest of the oak,
And the king of the wood:
Ancient forest of all hope–
I stand for everything that is good.

Hundreds of years, I’ve been passing
My brothers have been felled;
Invaded by machines, surpassing
The forests gone; our songs quelled.

Now in a garden I’m admired,
Pruned and trimmed to a perfect state;
Never wild, no less inspired;
Restrained inside by a metal gate–

I am welcome shade and autumn tones,
Amusements only for a privileged few;
Who rest below me and toss stones,
Carving initials, then saying adieu.

Many changes have struck my land,
Where once I stood a timeless wonder;
Within a wood so green and grand,
But it’s gone, my forest asunder.

One day I spot new birds in flight,
And watch the setting sun;
I marvel at the children’s delight
To stay with me when day is done.

Hope has sprung, and its face is this child,
Who loves my trunk, my leaves and boughs,
Scampering over my limbs so beguiled–
Yes, we’ll survive, brothers, and I smiled.



Valmont Reichl
Grade 11
High School of American Studies at Lehman College

The Red Hook Grain Terminal

On the shores of an old canal
The abandoned grain terminal stands alone
Its towering walls collapsed and crumbled
Industry’s pride from long ago

Concrete Columns rise to the ceiling
The grid-like windows void of glass
Old machines sit red and rusted
A remnant of the structure’s past

From the roof you see the city
It sprawls under the slate grey skies
On the roof a redbrick smokestack
From which no more smoke shall rise

Its silos were once filled with grain
When workers walked its concrete floors
It sent its steamships far and wide
To foreign ports on distant shores

The grain terminal, it is waiting
Through day’s light and through night’s black
Through broken windows it is watching
For those ships that won’t come back