a poem by Winter Contest Winner Dilen Marra, ’22

Every one of his bright hairs,

the color of the sun,

Stays aligned with the others,

held by a substance that smells of hundreds of dollars.

They scream out to everyone, letting people know that they are there.

I bring my hand to my head,

Pulling on the knots in my hair that I can never get out.

Every time I glance over at his unknotted, shiny,

Even hair, my face burns as if I were standing,

In the middle of a desert, in Arizona, for eternity.

My fingernails dig into my sweaty palms. The

Blue veins in my hand try to escape the layer

Of skin that lies over it.

The tightness of my scrunched up eyebrows

Begins to give my head a hammering feeling.

Droplets of sweat begin to form where my

Hair and my forehead meet, giving off a salty fragrance.

The scent of artificial sweetener travels through the air,

every time he runs his fingers through his hair.

Each and everyone of his hairs laugh at me,

Mocking every move I make, pulling my soul closer

And closer to the dusty floor.

With all my strength, I push my eyes away from the sight of his hair,

and I bring them to the

“What I am thankful for” card assignment,

on my school desk,

but on my card,

I can see the reflection of his yellow hair.

I turn to the boy next to me, with eyes the color of the ocean

And hair the color of the night.

“His hair looks so gross,” I whisper to him.

My heart races, waiting for his response.

The boy looks up and responds with a “yeah,”

While giggling. His agreement with me lifts what feels like

A hundred pounds, off of my shoulders.

My mouth forms a shape of a crescent moon.

He writes what could be mistaken as

A novel on his card.

His card titles, “I am thankful for my parents.”

Trying to claim his idea as my own, I begin to ponder

Why I am thankful for my parents.

I think as hard as I can, but my mind stays a place

That is taken up by complete darkness that goes on

For hundreds and hundreds of miles.

One step into my mind, and one could get lost without even

Knowing that they are lost. After a couple of minutes,

Swirly red waves of memories begin to travel around in my black mind.

One of the memories begins to play;

The time when my parents missed my birthday,

For a 3 week long Hawaiian cruise.

The hundred dollar bills

that they threw at me, before the long, black car, carried them away, are still

Stained with my tears.

Remains of the green rectangular paper are still stuck,

in my sticky, yellow hair.

I put my hand to my head, pulling my crispy hair

Across my face, to cover the sorrow in my eyes.

I feel as if I am frozen in an ice cube, in the middle of Antarctica.

A chilling tear runs down my cheek,

But, it freezes into ice, stuck on my face, before it can finish its journey to my chin.

“At least my parents give me money to buy whatever I want,”

I tell myself, but my ice cube still doesn’t thaw.

Each line he writes on his card, drains more and more tears from my eyes.

“Are you ok?” The girl next to me asks.

Her peach skin glows, and her hazelnut hair is tucked behind her ears,

Displaying her stormy brown eyes.

“I’m fine,” I reply, forcing my mouth to create an unfamiliar shape.

My cheeks ache, trying out this new expression.

People call it a smile.

I only use smiles for times like this; trying to cover my true feelings.

My nose is as red as the bow that sits on top of her head.

I create a dam in my eyes, to keep a river from flowing.

I begin to feel my dam cracking, but with all my strength, I manage to keep it up,

until she walked away.

I can feel my spirit crushed underneath my leather shoes,

Unable to escape.

My teeth grasp onto my lips, until I start to taste my icy blood.

I tuck my knees into my face, making it hard for oxygen to greet my nose.

But, somehow, I can still smell each word that he scribbles onto his card,

forcing my knees farther and farther,

Into my face.

It is the smell of something that I don’t have.

My face begins to throb from the pressure of my knees into my face,

But, I keep increasing the pressure, trying to squeeze the feelings out of me.