2013 Elizabeth Graeme Award in Poetry

WINNER: Erin Farrell
, CB East High School
Coarse Heels

They say it’s impossible to get lost in North America now
Since they’ve commercialized
and vandalized
with infrastructure and order and rigidity and organization
The natural world – taming everything they decided was wild and proclaiming it savage
and     uncivilized and wrong because it wasn’t like us, the rugged individualists
But they – yes, that same they
That damned they that’s always there with their sayings
They say nothing is impossible
not one gaping abyss of normalcy nor a massive cataclysm of adventure
But sometimes, that’s just all you want to do – get lost
Or maybe it’s just me
I just want to escape the suburban catacombs in which I’m already buried and die somewhere exotic as someone different
Or maybe it’s we – maybe you, too
Maybe it is you and you’ll prove them wrong
Hopefully it’s you: I still have hope for you, I really do
that you’ll live and not just wait
It’s all you want to do sometimes
Hole up in some deep dark oblivion and never speak again
It’s all those meaningless things that are frivolous things and so absolutely thing-y and material that you’re running from
And the people who have become things because of their obsession with things
Just hop on a train and watch the steam swallow the sky
Cut your ties – your losses
Just drive
Hide in the back of a rusty red pickup and smell burning light bulbs of old headlights and
decaying wood and dirty wrenches and oil and talcum
Thumb a big rig and get lost
Just get lost and never find your way back
but find a way forward
shove a door open with a shoeless foot and disregard the past recklessly
Oh, just do something reckless, utterly reckless, like run away
Pedal somewhere on that old bike and never turn back
Have a false identity
To be a stranger and find another stranger in a strange world
and just moonlight-dance and sing and be strange
just run
You want dirt in your hair and under your nails
Grime at your wrists and on your feet
The only soap the running stream
The only comb your fingers
Feel hunger and need just to feel something even if it’s pain
You’ll chase nothing but the idea of something to the ends of the earth
                        and when you’re there you won’t fall off but you’ll dive off
and swim into some forbidden celestial chasm
bare and unafraid of what might be swimming with you and the stars
                        submerged in the black and one with it because you let go and ran
                        living in a room you made out of the mountainside
Because you’re you and you ran because you could not because you should because you shouldn’t have but you did
You ran because it was what you wanted
You weren’t afraid to want and lose and defy and trespass and feel and take risks
You did what you wanted and are free
Could you imagine that liberty
Tearing your coarse heels on cracked black pavement and watching the yellow lines skid
beneath you in a wild blur
wild like you
Even though you’ll die someday
but not until you’ve lived, you restless soul, lived and you were wild
But maybe some things really are impossible
They’re wrong either way
And they’re right, too

RUNNER UP: Matthew Kolosick, 
CB East High School

Have you ever been to a laundromat?
Walked through double doors to rows of silver fed beasts set to devour?
At least they’re kind enough to return their food
Though it comes sodden and chewed
Like a mother bird feeding its baby.
Though this mother has but one child,
And it is stranded, huddled between its fellow orphans.
Relying on you for sustenance.
Have you ever been to a laundromat?
Sat down and watched your clothes
Cycle up then down, wet then dry?
Asked yourself why it is we only handle them when they’re wet?
And spend the whole time protecting ourselves behind glass doors?
Have you ever washed clothes by hand?
Hung them out spaced and tall?
Watched the fabrics as they dry in time with your hands?
Just twine and wood and water
Bringing out a silver shine in the flesh of your palms.
But you get to keep this silver
Even though it comes and goes with the basket
And the washbasin where you rescue the clothes from drowning,
Then proceed to hang them by their necks
High above.
A warning for all to see.



The Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson Award in Formal Poetry is presented to a high school student from Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, or Philadelphia counties who has submitted the best example of a poem written in form