2012 New York Browning Society NYC Poetry Contest Winners + Short List

2012 New York Browning Society NYC Poetry Contest Winners + Short List



Jennifer Yeoh-Wang
Class 11
The Chapin School
Teacher: Jonathan Wilcove

6 Train

Every day in the summer I wait
On the platform
Feeling hot and sticky with beads
Of sweat collecting around my neck
and under my arms.
A sight for sore eyes.

The same homeless man smells like he needs a shower.
Wearing frayed jeans and worn, cracked shoes
Exposing dark toes crusted with dirt.

Two gregarious little boys are on their way to camp
Accompanied by a tired, worn mother with
Uncombed dirty blond hair.
She just dragged herself out of bed.

Two young girls ask me if the train
Stops on 14th street. They giggle as
They go downstairs to catch the express.

A woman wears a short black skirt and blouse
Moist with sweat clinging to her body.
Her curly shoulder length hair
Is freshly damp from a shower.
She clings to a man she just started to date.
I can tell she still cares
because her makeup is perfectly applied,
and she is laughing at all his stupid jokes.

Three black men playing
Hip-hop with home-made instruments –
Bottles and cans of different sizes –
Are gyrating to the sound of their pulsating beat.

A man wearing tight cut-off jeans and white t-shirt
Proudly flexes a lean muscled arm bearing a dragon tattoo.
He is accustomed to the admiring glances;
He must work out seven days a week,
It makes me thirsty to watch him
Take a huge gulp from his water bottle.

And then I notice him
Or perhaps it was he who noticed me.

I am waiting for the downtown train
And he is on the opposite side of the subway track-
Waiting for the uptown train.
I take in his pressed cuffed khaki pants,
White polo shirt, and the tousled brown curls that frame his head.
6 feet at least.

We stare at each other.
And suddenly I don’t mind the wait, the dank smell of the
subway station or the excruciating heat.

He smiles and makes a hand gesture.
But I don’t want to appear too obvious
in case I have misunderstood.

A loud roar breaks the silence and the uptown train swallows
all of its passengers.
I look for you but, of course, you are gone.
I am left starring at the empty platform
waiting for the downtown 6 train
for an interminable time.

I can’t wait to ride
the 6 train tomorrow.


Erik Neill Outhwaite
Grade: 11
Hunter College High School
Teacher: Lois Refkin

My Father’s Iguana

The Iguana is a

It is, more thoughtful
Than the sloth
Yet not as noisome.

The Iguana is an

It yields to no one
So you must be deferential.

My Father’s Iguana
Would prefer
Mud, the clay of the Earth
And lettuce,
Or greenbacks as you might say.
My Father’s Iguana eats richly

My Father’s Iguana
Does not have a taste for music.
But he likes Bob Dylan

My Father’s Iguana
Is from New Mexico
Madrid, a small town of small people

And small lives.
Madrid, pronounced

My Father’s Iguana
Used to watch the coal miners.
They would blow the top off hills, excavate, and move on.
The thick black sludge would ooze down,
The semi-volcanoes of the Southwest

A bird would land and pick at the stones.
Stone Strong
Rock Hard
The bird would move on
To Cacti and shade

My Father’s Iguana
Would sleep,
Dozing in the Mah Dred Sun
A fly would come, and depart.
The milky haze of the pickup trucks and cars
Would illuminate the landscape through the late afternoon and the evening
The sun would begin to glow goodbye
The red stone of the Houses,
Crimson Brown
Would now fade
A detachment of purple and violet
The shrubbery on the hill would fade too
A true spectacle.
A fly came to rest on My Father’s Iguana
They stayed there, embraced.
The rough plateaus of the New Mexican Landscape
Became still
The working men were home in Mah Dred
If not for the lightest breeze, shimmering the grass
The quiet was sonorous.

Then my father appeared, illusory in the mellow dusk
He took My Father’s Iguana
And wrote him into his canvas.
He carved his toes, he smoked his patterns and eyes, he discriminated so thoroughly as to
leave My Father’s Iguana colorless.

But I know the true colors.


Sarah Yeoh-Wang
Class 11
The Chapin School
Teacher: Jonathan Wilcove

Mirrored Past

She could look up at the sky at night,
And a thousand stars would bewitch her,
Teasing and prodding,
Until she tumbled from her bed into the sky,
Flipping and cartwheeling among the clouds
In the way she’d always wished she could.
Stars spun into pinwheels:
She blew,
And the clouds twined themselves into a harmonica,
Effortlessly breathing out lazy rhapsodies in to the night air.
Bare trees sheathed in holiday lights
Reached out to her, claw-like-
The hands of drowning men.
She snapped the bulbs as she somersaulted along,
Popping each sphere like bubble wrap,
Buzzing hisses fizzing through the air as she extinguished each light.
When she righted herself,
Seeds of silvery light cascaded down her back,
Flaring against the cement where they burst open like petals,
A dazzling fractal unfolding against dull gray,
Blossoming like bacteria in a petri dish-
A cure for cancer? A remedy for AIDS?
She reached for the unattainable and tucked it in her pocket.
With her thumb, she could blot out countries,
Rubbing out delicate borders,
Leveling mountains until everything lay flat.
A pinch, and Pangaea was reformed.
The continents melded perfectly,
Slotting together like the pieces of a puzzle.
With her eyes, she could trace foggy outlines:
Sometimes a woman balanced confidently,
A graceful leg extended in an arabesque;
Other times, slender fingers pressed against a canvas,
Brushing Charcoal against eyes fringed with long lashes.
As she twirled around to meet those future selves,
Stars crystallized around her body—
Hollow shells like the sugary casing of gumballs
Cracking with time until all the remained were
Broken constellations the she connected with her littlest finger.

Now when I look up at the sky at night,
And search to link stars into familiar patterns,
The figure break;
I instead see a helicopter winking away,
Silently scattering light in its wake.


Natasha Garcia
11th Grade
Gramercy Arts High School
Teacher: Ms. Glenda Cannell

Love the way we love
-Inspired by Robert Browning ( One way of Love))

– Wrapped in the sheets of glass
– Fragile and afraid to hold you
– Fire red and ocean blue
– I drowned with you
– On a cloud in the sky and under the ground in the dirt
– I sleep with you
– You hold my mind and squeeze my heart
– Fragile and afraid you hold me
– In the starts late at night
– You speak to me
– Careful with our hearts
– We love the way we love



Jenny Ahn
Grade 11
The Spence School
Teacher: Mary Frosch

To Entertain

in the sense of misery she wondered nervous music
playing a duet running the treble—her part of whether
lines or spaces had been weak the unexpectedly loud had said,
“her fingers had worked
her movements being heard
but hard till the end”.

someone said a nice touch had pushed her
angry from the hearthrug.
always the clear mass the fire the green
warming on blue tiles.

the room seemed full of stupid people
who made her play.
she had been noticing the forgotten guest
had the girls almost learnt
pieces by heart
through trembling limbs burning
–alternately thumping stiff and
feeling whole from wrist to notes
fumbled into each other.

the thumping began the musical evenings
by a winter she played to the effects
which she alone could discover her nervousness.

she had been miserable once in a way
that astonished her ear—
the notes laughed back from behind the piano.



Elizabeth Schack
Grade 11
The Birch Wathen Lenox School
Teacher: Joseph Kreutziger

The Girl with the Caked Face
-Inspired by Robert Browning’s poem, “A Light Woman”

Familiar faces all stand and cheer.
Nothing more the Carvel blue stains
Singing to my sixteenth year.

Sliced a smile on my lips using mom’s Visa,
While I dabbed my cheeks with doilies,
Like one would do to get the grease off pizza.

Feeling my life would be completely invalid.
(Being pressured on what to eat)
If my last meal was a salad.

Compulsively counting every multi-colored sprinkle.
The hands of the clock pinch my pupils,
Being reminded of all my new wrinkles.

Where’s Peter Pan to come take me away?
The doorway to Wonderland?
My Hogwarts letter that never came?

Nerves being tickled by the stabs of pins.
Attending the masquerade.
Leaving behind my cellulite grins.

I’m sugarcoated fake.
OD’ed on artificial sweetener.
All the people crave is my ego baked.

Staring at the royal iced flower on my plate.
With my butter cream simper,
Hiding my red velvet hate.

I’m not the only one who distracts with accessories.
Everyone has their jelly filled wounds
But the difference is I was just meant to be a memory.

No more hiding my seasoned fears.
Let the hot wax drip down my face,
Flaunt my fluorescent pink tears.

I’ve become the cake, with flesh shame.
About to be eaten away.
Knew I would be the one to blow out my own flame.

Goodbye Upper East Side.
Remain glitter and diamonds.
I become a roach.




Ethan Mok
Grade 9
Hunter College High School
Teacher: Nicole Cusick

That Summer Sun

You have a snapshot, a little
Crumpled sheet somewhere in your brain.
It’s what you always find
When you’re looking for something else
Under the bed and behind the sofa.
You read the date you
Scrawled on the back.
You see children on the front,
Cut through with white wrinkles,
Children who grew up
A long time ago.

Can you remember
What song the band played, the
Color of her shirt, where you
Took the photo?
Really remember: are you
There again right now?
The smell. Warm concrete and
Cotton from the dryer.
The crumbs dropping from the
Edge of the last cookie.
The oats heating in the air.
Can you see it now?
The sun came down too bright,
Everything through squinted eyes.
Can you see it now?

Didn’t you have fun?
Weren’t you happy, that
One summer day
When you
Danced together, and
When she pulled you away?
The clothes you wore were
Too hot for that summer
That day.
Both of you, balanced
On the sidewalk edge.
Shoes untied, but some
Magic of the heat keeps you
Rocking back and forth on the
Line between black and white.
Both arms wheeling in the air,
Both arms leaning on her shoulders.
Look up from her shoes,
She’s smiling at you!
Can’t stutter as the
Birthday boy.

You grew up; the
Stubby drawing pencils, and
Kindergarten doodles
Piled atop the photo.
But the child inside braved this
Grown up mess
To find the photo pinned beneath
A threadbare teddy and a set of trains.
And while you have a gallery of
Weddings and graduations,
The child has only one exhibit on display.

It isn’t fair,
Waiting, even if you
Say you aren’t
You “moved on”
But the child is
Still pining, still waiting for her and
Hoping beyond all hope
That his persistence will be rewarded.
And even if you refuse to listen,
You wait and hope along with him.

Shifting in a tight collar
And a tie; formal clothes
Not right for the child you
Wish you could be again.
Almost drowsy, then
Sweating in the sun.
Buy a slushy maybe?
Remember the taste and
The smell of that summer?
It’s melting now, reds and blues
On the pavement and your shoes.
The colors gone, just the
Sticky film.
You’re here now,
Slicked back hair and
Golden watch.

Eighty degrees
At half past noon.
In front of the
Asian dry cleaners and
The children’s park
(Look, the ice cream truck).
The smell of concrete and
Cotton from the dryer.
No cookie sharing today.

The roads still run, no
Crosswalk at the corner.
Balanced on the sidewalk:
A child with a suit, a watch
And a tie.

His saved up
Birthday wishes
And 11:11 dreams spent
For one more day
Of not knowing the path
Through school and work
For both of you.

One more day
In the drowsy heat’s half dream
The child falls asleep again.
You walk away.
And you make your own wish
To forget the summer dance,
And the smile beneath the sun.
Because you know what the child doesn’t
You know that
That summer sun is gone.




Max Liu
Grade 12
The Browning School
Teacher: Kevin Lane Dearinger


Love is the orbit that travels far,
Always returning with age.

The warmth that mother gives
Her silent seed is wholehearted.
Now burbling and favor returned,
Shackling Mary and her lamb.

With false cognizance,
Yet still in juvenescence,
The pilosity perplexes him.

Eyeing ewes afar,
With thoughts of tumescently tumbling
In the fields.

Realism being that Rams
Ram under her weathered wool.

With each in their dotage,
They promenade the pasture
Unconscious of the beauty
Around them,
But the beauty within them




Suzhen Jiang
Grade 9
The Brearley School
Teacher: Jee Leong Koh

Monotone Apocalypse

I often fear that someday there will be
No feelings to express, no words to pen,
No new ideas or discovery,
And all thought will repeat themselves again.
All film pilots will be common and clichéd;
Philosophy will blur and intermix;
All books will be exhausted and remade
With change of names and other wretched tricks.
The populace will have one character,
And endless variations on one mind.
Disconsolate will be the traveler
When he has nothing more on earth to find.
Then death will overtake us one and all,
Destroying us, yet freeing us from thrall.




John Scowcroft
Grade 12
The Browning School
Teacher: Kevin Lane Dearinger

Sound and Fury

Every morning, I awake to the clamor
Of my bedside clock, with its piercing cries of “Sleep no more!”
And, as the sun rises, so does the volume of the world.
Clattering kitchens, blasting horns,
The inevitable “Taxi! Taxi!”
Dogs barking,
The subway and the bus, as if in contest, roaring at top speed,
Until both are brought to a screeching stop,
Car radios pulsating, pounding,
The tiny, tinny wailing from someone else’s headphones,
And so many people babbling about nothing,
Overwhelm my mind,
Destroying the tranquility of slumber.
And yet, and night, when all is said and done,
(But mostly said)
And my mind begins to drift away,
The sound of traffic, once a dreadful din,
Is not unlike the seashore.
It ebbs and flows,
Sending my mind to some distant paradise.
The airplane overhead, whose grumble was once grating,
Becomes the same warm jet that has lulled me to sleep on many a long, weary flight.
And that same power that murdered sleep
Restores it, even sweeter then before,
And beckons me into its blissful silence.