2016 New York Browning Society NYC Poetry Contest Winners + Short List

2016 New York Browning Society NYC Poetry Contest Winners + Short List




Marie-Rose Sheinerman
Hunter College High School
Faculty Sponsor: Kimberly Airoldi


Defining Infinity

(there are two holes in my wall
I traced pencil around them, loops, a trance
small drill pins left from construction
stayed the same size
since I was three
in other words, forever)

infinity —
has four syllables
we majestically unraveled the swan song of galaxies
only to fold it twice like a cheap restaurant napkin

infinity —
has two Ns, three Is and I
was color blind to the golden glint of your calf
the light blurred like early march ice beneath a figure eight

infinity —
the amount of time I swore to myself to love you
but I’ve stopped
seeing in your eyes whispers of the summer sea

infinity –
rhymes with divinity
my love felt Cathedral; psalms slipped from my lips,
I read the bathroom mirror like a teleprompter

infinity –
and eternity, two words cuddled beneath my tongue
the y shrunk to fit into the space
and strings of numbers flossed my teeth

infinity –
red marks on my palm from sinking my nails into it
got lilac nails because you said spring smells like lavender
you, lie like nails against chalk, me, wall drilling, not small anymore

infinity –
the space between Adam and God on the Sistine Chapel
growing growing growing

(in other words
it’s what you could have had
but never will)




Michelle Chen
Grade 11, Hunter College High School
Kip Zegers

Carpe Noctem: A Crown of Sonnets

You’ve been imagining a no-fly zone,
reckless bullet exhaling foreign air
above the frozen copulating bears.
I dreamed that I caught flight at Yellowstone
and spread the wood and wax to stars alone
beating back geysers’ bubbling flares
in ecstasy. It’s true, so said Voltaire,
(when drought is jealous of flames in acetone)
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget
to sing in the life boats,” as the rag doll
flew with the swiftly rising fireball
at Hiroshima when the flageolet
blasted the sun from its place in the sky:
you’ve seen through T.J’s dark electric eye.

You’ve seen through T.J’s dark electric eye,
sown ghosts in a museum of open books
for memory, when a god’s great shoe shook
with fever. Four days after the first cry
she carried him through fronds of wild rye,
kissed his ghetto fist, rinsed with one last look
at Meliandou: wolves drink at these brooks
in December. A boat is no good bye.
So, carpe noctem! Guilty after all!
Her son’s dead body seems to split in two
as he glides through the evening dew
and vanishes. The stars rupture and fall
with her: Romulus and Remus have found
Ebola. My womb was their burial ground.

Ebola. My womb was their burial ground
out of spite. I dreamed my flesh and bone free
of contagion and fell into the sea
to breathe. To tell the truth, I heard no sound
except my own splash and glimpsed none around
in selfishness. But don’t you dare deny
my right to live my life as firefly.
A challenge, Challenger! Escape this mound
of devastation: fragments come ashore
occasionally on the Florida coast
and paw at our hoarse throats, ghost or no ghost.
Inhaling musk and accident I swore
to go to the last familiar street, snow
rising, rising, towards nowhere you know.

Rising, rising towards nowhere you know,
the sweetest boundary of softened earth
crumbled as my feet slapped turtle birth
trails descending hysterically: no
regrets, none in flushed lunar armpit glow.
“Spread my tidings of the golden future time,”
sang Old Major, as organized hate crime
trembled two thousand bridges, woke Van Gogh,
the day twin towers were razed to the ground.
Far above, the fliers burst into riot
but again in the night it is quiet
enough. Both death and life a snuffling greyhound
seeks, the leash’s soft click click nosing through foul
air. Far away I hear its whimpering howl.

Air. Far away I hear its whimpering howl,
Cows and horses, geese and turkeys, be kind
to me. A balloon to a child intertwined
does not fly. You’ve sung better than an owl
once, scared more than its iridescent scowl,
chained night to blood in all veins of mankind
(yes, all, you’re not spared). So that’s how I find
clarity at the witch’s house. The cat prowls
at the doorstep: in the photograph of fame
the woman gazes, pink cap-hat tilted
with gaiety. Later, Jackie will wilt,
claw at black leather, fingers aflame
with pieces of her husband’s skull. I sprint
for peace in gingerbread and peppermint.

For peace in gingerbread and peppermint
I plunge into the kitchen with my nose,
the cool soil crumbling from my toes
and studding Sylvia’s shadow. Fine print
leers: no one home beyond the curtain chintz.
“Sweeter yet shall blow its breezes,” she goes,
as a wet towel slips from its floppy pose
onto the tiles at midnight. The glint
of earrings personal: did she toss, turn?
In hours the nearby church rattles its bell
to rust. One woman’s bombing is our own unwell,
left to blister, simmer, arise and burn
in ecstasy. I spread my wings and eat
bread, soup, fish, nuts: all line my guts like peat.

Bread, soup, fish, nuts: all line my guts like peat
in raw truth. “Purer shall its waters be,”
so said Orwell, “on the day that sets us free,”
(when tragedy gets jealous of crow’s feet)
as the swiftly rising she-wolf’s teat
is milked dry, kneeling by the poplar tree,
that sweet milk of insomnia. I agree:
in sunlight I will never be complete
(striking the wood and wax to stars alight)
without transition between stunning frowns.
So, carpe noctem! Wear this dreadful crown
of mercy. For I dreamed that I caught flight
at Yellowstone (T.J’s dark eyelid shone),
and you’ve been imagining a no-fly zone.



Destiny Bennett
Grade 12
Monsignor Scanlan High School
Inspired by: E. Browning’s Sonnet 43

How Do I Loathe Thee

How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.
I loathe thee for your lies and the inflicted pain you caused me.
I loathe thee to the depths of my soul
for all the sleepless crying nights and depressed days.
I loathe thee to the firing roar of fury
that burns inside when I hear your wretched name.
I loathe thee from deep down my cold heart,
you are to blame.
You hurt me. Did you not know?
I loathe thee so much, my self-esteem will not grow.
I loathe thee the way the devil loathes God’s child.
I was so sweet, then I met you and you hurt me; my inner fire burns wild!
I loathe thee, Oh! How I deeply do.
Because of you, I’m afraid to say “I love you.”
So how much do I loathe you?
Words can’t describe and I won’t be rude.



A precious diamond
caught in a trap of soot.
Little Becky was only 8 years old.
Smile brighter than a vibrant star.
Happiness and laughter are what she brought.
When she stepped in the room,
Blackbird is what I called her.
“Auntie, sing the song from the movie to me.”
Little Becky loved the sound of my voice when I sang her favorite song
“Why you wanna fly? Blackbird,
You ain’t never gonna fly.
Your mother’s name is lonely.
Your father’s name is pain.
Why you wanna fly? Blackbird
You ain’t never gonna fly.”
Months gone by since I’ve seen Little Becky.
Turn on my TV to see my baby girl’s favorite movie.
My phone rang, “Destiny, Little Becky is gone.”
Nobody knew Little Becky had a stone sized brain tumor growing.
My heart shattered in my chest.
My day went from rainbows and dancing bunnies,
To dark gloomy days.
I lost my best friend, my niece, my everyday happiness.
“Why you wanna fly? Blackbird
You ain’t never gonna fly.
Your mother’s name is lonely.
Your father’s name is pain.
Why you wanna fly? Blackbird”



Isabella McIlvaine
Grade 10
Notre Dame High School
Jean Halloran
Sonnet 20 (inspiration/favorite poem)


“The Beloved’s Betrayal”
Original Poem
by Isabella McIlvaine.

The skies have turned a turmoil grey,
The daffodils are wilting at your feet.
These fields should flourish in the warmth of May,
So why do they wither as if in June’s heat?

Your eyes have robbed the sky of its hue,
Your lips are plump and curled upright,
With such a sparkling shade of blue,
I forget we meet here amidst the night.

When you take my hand with a tender touch,
I swear my heart inflates with air,
Then you smile as if this were nothing much,
And with a kiss you steal my cares.

Yet the oak tree that looms above our hearts,
Continues to groan from the bullying gale,
And as its supple boughs are torn apart,
I realize I’ve once before heard this tale.

A scream rips my throat with fear as its lace,
I fiercely twist away but you catch my wrist;
As your ginger locks bounce around your face,
You seem surprised that your touch I resist.

The sky’s alight with chiseled lightning,
The daffodils fight against a wicked gust,
Your hand on mine is suddenly tightening,
And your eyes are alight with blood-lust.

A stake of terror then stabs my soul,
My heart grows heavier than a rock,
I hear the ominous Church bells toll,
As if my ending life is theirs to mock.

Oh, beloved! How terribly you had me deceived!
You brought me more joy than heaven ever could,
But with your fangs in my neck, all my blood is retrieved,
And you leave me as lifeless as a splintered piece of wood.



“The Beloved Traitor”
Inspired Poem – Sonnet 20
by Isabella McIlvaine.

I lie you upon a bed of lifeless flowers;
Beside your sunken face they seem robust.
My lips are still stained by your broken trust,
And my heart ridden of all its dastardly powers.
I find that my hell-damned soul now cowers,
My mind finally clear of the cloud of blood-lust,
Yet my body is adhered to this spot by the rust,
Born from lingering at your side for hours.
Oh, my love! Why had it be you I deceived?
Why did you not run at the sight of my fangs?
What sort of love did you wish be achieved,
In getting to know me, whom hell overhangs?
Now I am paralyzed, awaiting and aggrieved,
Until the sun arises, until of life I am relieved.




Liam Kerwin
Grade 12
The Browning School

A tribute to Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”


And so it sent,
And now I Wait—
To Lose my mind
Or find my Fate.

The Time—between—
a dangerous place
so Easy—burns
away your Hope.

As fires rise
So do my hands
and pray to him—

As winter comes,
my days turn dark—
my Hope succumbs—
to Doubt like Frost.




Julian Orillac
Grade Twelve
The Browning School

The Chair

I sat on the chair like trash in a dumpster
Unkempt by the world around through no fault of my own.
While Society went around its business,
I sat there
Sitting sitting
I stood up
I saw Polaris,
The Dipper,
All the rest,
The entire universe expanding upon itself
Growing larger and faster every instant
Then the world over inflated and
Since all of interest is nothing more than a blip
I sat on the chair like trash in a recycling bin,

Uncaring for Society
More interested in blues than hues
More interested in diversity than disparity
More interested in a few folk arguing in a room
Than one man with a gun stepping in,
This time though,
I just sat.








Nicole Bass
Gramercy Arts High School

Reflection: A seaside walk by Elizabeth Browning

When I see you smile

3am, waking with the urge to kiss you
to roll over, to fall into your arms
6am, wake to you sleepingso
i move slowly, into the kitchen not trying to wake my love

sissle of the pan, eggs expanding to all edges, filling of the glass with orange juice

walking over into our room filled with your snores
my smile opening to the sight of your eyes, opening your eyes to the sight of my smile
racing to kiss you ever so gentle to not spill the breakfast all over our bed
racing to the breakfast, you scorf the food down
your stomach expanding
setting aside the plates on the counter we found in the yard sale last week
grabbing my hip, pulling closer
our love, as tight as the hug you give
our lives, as close as the bed and blankets
our memories, never fading from us
your kisses wet with orange juicei
push away
the hug tighteri
close my eyes for a moment

moments turn to months
months increasing to years
soon decades follow

peacefully as we lay in our bed
no longer able to wake
but living in our dreams

personal poem
the ending of

it was like a river drying up
last idea cycling through my mind
rushing water become a steady stream
long explanation coming to a end
turing into a slow stream
muttering last lines
end of that constant flow
speaking the ending words
trickling down into a vast ocean
the vibration of the last syllable
it was done
around of applause
the dirt of the ground feeling the air
the breath catched finally

the world still continued on

personal poem
Something in the movies

boy meets girl
becoming steady
fulling with love
reaching the highest peak
and burning out with a bright light

but it was different this time

it didnt reach a peak
passing the clouds
burning bright endlessly

love so passionate
the movie became jealous-so jealous

in rage-as every movie goes
ended suddenly
boy walked away in the night with another
i woke up in the morning alone




Sarah Baum
10th grade
The High School of American Studies at Lehman College
Mr. Daniel Murphy

The name of the poem the student is inspired by for the Browning poem : “My Last Duchess,” by Robert Browning

Browning Inspired Poetry Entry:

The following poem, “Elizabeth,” is based on the love story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. It is written to the same meter, iambic pentameter, and rhyme scheme as Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess.” I chose this poem as my inspiration because it was one of Browning’s “Dramatic Lyrics,” which Elizabeth
Browning defended after the poems were criticized. After she defended it, Robert Browning asked to meet her, and their meeting is what brought them to fall in love with each other.


“ Elizabeth ”

Across the way there shines my gleaming girl;

Soft as a sunset, luminous as a pearl.

But far away she stands so out of reach,

For if I get too near, my heart she’ll breach.

Around herself she built a wall of straw,

And when it fell I felt so full of awe.

For whilst her words are kindest of mankind,

More breathtaking was how she left behind

Her father whom she loved and trusted so

To run away with me and end my woe.

And now today my world is filled with glee,

And every morn’ my gleaming girl greets me.

She leaves all of her dark and deep hair down;

Her eyes alone can halt my saddest frown.

My chest can not contain my happy heart;



I am an artist and love is my art.

Original Poetry Entry:
Poem #1 : “The Widower”

One day when all the flowers were in bloom,
A man told his child a tale about love.
Years ago he met a lady with whom
He’d sit and watch the glitt’ring stars above.

The two of them were happy as could be;
Years passed and they remained the best of friends.
Until he popped the question. To her glee,
They were married by just the next weekend.

Then everything began to go downhill;
Soon there was a new baby on the way.
They would be happy, but the girl fell ill,
The man grew more worrisome with each day.

When came the time for her to birth a boy,
Her illness had consumed her so much so.
She had the baby, yet there was no joy;
The lady passed and there was so much woe.

The man looked at his child and he spoke,
Of how his youthful life was all but done.
For even though right then his heart had broke,
T’was pieced right back together by his son.



Zach Struthers
11th Grade
Xavier High School
Ms. Mary-Grace Gannon, English Teacher

Inspired by: “A Serenade at the Villa”

The Call of the Heart

The whistle of the soothing wind over the ocean;
The sound of waves crashing rhythmically below the barren moon,
You lay restlessly with heartfelt emotion,
And I wait to feel the warmth of your heart bloom.

The sun patiently rises despite my anxious unpleasance:
The time is near, the suspense building, I can no longer bear;
I search for thine own warming presence –
The path I seek is ever closer under the feeling of the tensing air.

My skin raises under the sense of thy comforting setting,
But the emptiness of my heart grows!
Once more, my gaze scans the bustling room but nowhere I am getting:
Panic creeps in slowly and silently, while the dark bird crows.

A once hopeful heart; crippled, overwhelmed by darkness like fog in the morn –
As the realization of the unfortunate circumstances falls upon me!
Oh, the tragedy of the situation! a deep seated hatred in the heart is born!
The timing could not have been more critical, and yet it was not meant to be.

Seconds separated an alignment greater than those of the planets in the sky –
As the completing half of my love exited, the wandering second half should enter;
My heart beat in dismay as it waited for that fateful reply,
The weight of the world crushed my love: my heart stopped beating, removed of its center!




Adrian Lajara
High School of American Studies
Denis Murphy

Original Submission- a modern day love poem

there’s a series of confessions bubbling in your throat,
threatening to spill over, lay you out naked
in front of appraising eyes that will catalogue your every flaw
and spit them back out at you
with voice raised and mouth curled into a sneer:
it doesn’t matter if your heart is lighter than a feather
when your imperfections are heavier than
all the merits you could ever hope to have.

the heart of romance is anxiety.
some say that trust is the key to a long lasting love
but the truth is that love
is a tree that has all has its roots planted in fear:
we were never built for solitude,
so we cling to those around us,
let our thorns dig into one another’s sides
and synchronize our heartbeats,
tell ourselves that perhaps this time it will all work out for the best,
but the pain will always win against the pleasure,
so the hearts fused into one by a so called love will sever into two
and you will consider yourself naive and foolish
for trusting another person with your entire being,
but you will do it time and time again-
after all, the heart of romance is dependency.

you learn that love is a hideous thing,
reaching out for us with spindly fingers
knotted and warped by age,
dragging us into its clutches.
it brings out the worst in us all,
revives cardinal sins in their basest of forms-
envy, lust and pride intermingling and
setting out a path of destruction,
razing everything you’ve ever cared for to the ground.

and yet there’s a series of confessions bubbling in my throat,
threatening to spill over,
and i look at you like you’re the only source of light in the room
like drinking in your smile is a valid substitute for water,
like i would give up all my oxygen to hear your laugh one more time,
and the urge to get close to you is crawling under my skin, flooding my nervous system.

and i know that i am scared, and vulnerable, and hopelessly in love with you.
and more than that, i know you will break my heart.
so i bury the love poem somewhere under my tongue
and write this instead:
new age nihilism for the disillusioned
who have been burnt by the fire so often
that they can no longer see the beauty that it holds-
instead, we laugh at smouldering embers and
wish we could remember what it feels like to be warm.