Award Winners

2021 Student Poetry Award

Dana Bahng


Anne Kwok

to be enough

               i like the idea
of being concept
               conception. glory
     aubade: the parting
          of two lips.

     when i say i want
out, i mean that i
          want            to learn
     how to move like fishbones
          across your tongue

sunset on the
     closet doors, light
upon yew. upon your
           moldable in my

     i think i understand
               what’s missing
          it’s caught between
          bars of light:
             gaps between
      world and windowsill.

the gold trimmings fall,
       sunflakes to the floor
       lapis and sandalwood
             and the shape
                  of time. the

       sound of flesh:
palm on cheek. what does
       love look like to you?
               the sound of porcelain
       shattering, white noise
       into nothing.

               some things, i realize,
are phenomenal
       and inconsequential.
                     say petals, dewdrops
                          and the tension
                               they share
                     “weight of beauty,”
                          you call it

               say auroras
               and snowfall,
the wind whispering ice
                     like folklore in
                  your ears.
               “sometimes,” i remind
               myself, “you don’t have
               to be useful to be loved”

     but i still wanted you
               to hold me
                     like i was dangerous,
                     one of the wild things
to tell me
          i     had

               learn me like you’d
                 face consequences.

i wanted you to explain:
     what you meant in saying
     i tasted like mirrors.
          all opaline, echoes
          and strawberries
     i was asking you to
          see me, then
               reach through the
               shards anyway
     to prove you weren’t afraid,
          with your flesh and blood
               lotus buds and iodine.

i grasped the window-frame,
words shattering like       ritual
                            like   scripture.

     in the end, tears mixed with
          blood. the ratio
          was enough—
               pretty pink, like
              & the sunset.

     i’d rather be concept
          than conclusion,
     i’d rather
               be, and
               nothing more.
     gentle glow
and the softness
of this world.

to be chrysalis,
to be daybreak
     to be soft and
     whole once again.

           to find closure
     in remedies and rain
           to stand under the
           sun and be known
    in this lonely survival—

perhaps not perfect,
but openhearted. not
     mirror, but melody:
          freedom through
           rainfall, exodus

        when my name speaks me
     i will speak in stars, huddled
  under candlelight
                               and empty sky
   giving you all of me in these hands

           sometimes, we be
              and it is enough.

Selected by Eloisa Amezcua

"i'd rather / be, and / nothing more." the clarity with which this young poet sees the world, and themselves in it, is equal parts tender and sharp. This poem begins in abstraction, "i like the idea / of being concept / conception." and moves through the complexities of desire—not only in wanting to understand the other, but to be understood, wholly. "what does / love look like to you?" the speaker asks, and we too as readers must consider the question. The speaker comes to the realization that some things, perhaps love, can be both, "phenomenal / and inconsequential." When I say this shook me, I mean that as the reader, I felt seen. I felt understood. And that to me is the mark of an incredible poem. For a stranger's words to awaken in us a part of ourselves. It was the final couplet of the poem that struck the most, however. "sometimes, we be / and it is enough." What I want, what the speaker wants, perhaps what we all want, is to be seen fully, to be seen as whole. And for that to be enough.

About Dana Bahng

Dana is a high school junior from New Jersey. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and is published in The Apprentice Writer, Remington Review, and more. She works as managing editor of Sandpiper and publishing director of The Catalyst. Outside of writing, she plays piano and enjoys drawing, stargazing, and propagating succulents.