Student Poem


by Nathan Cummings

Like syzygy, we collided
in the darkness, ricocheted,
twirled, aligned
(helped along by gravity?)
and were gone when the moon showed its face.

I told you the word at dawn,
and had to write it on a notepad
before you would believe me.
Many things sound impossible
before you put your tongue into them.

Feel it in the roots of your teeth.
Let the zy and gy crackle
like the static on an old TV set,
turning sound galvanic,
making atoms tremble in ecstasy
until they leap skyward,
form rows and hang in the void to hear
the planets sing with one burning voice.

Let consonants carry you away.


Nathan Cummings has been appointed the West Region’s National Student Poet for 2013. This is the highest honor in the United States for youth poets presenting original work. Nathan currently lives in Mercer Island, a community which has afforded him many opportunities in the arts. These include playing the clarinet in marching and concert band and serving as the editor-in-chief of his high school literary magazine, Pegasus. Nathan is also a reader for two national teen literary magazines, Polyphony H.S. and The Adroit Journal. His experiences with Polyphony and Adroit, as well as his time spent at the Iowa Young Writers’ studio, have introduced him to a remarkably close-knit and supportive network of teen writers from across the nation. Nathan also participates in cross country and track and field at his school. Some of his favorite poems originate from ideas that first came to him during long, solitary runs.


Nathan Cummings pictured at the White House with Mrs. Obama (Nathan is just right of her) and his fellow National Student Poets.  Read more about this excellent program here and here.

(This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.)



Poets In The Park from Alliance for Young Artists & Wri on Vimeo.

Student Poem

The Windowsill


In a great blue house there is a woman
looking at the ocean
As if strings are holding her back
and the windowsill is as far as she can go.

She wishes she could feel the cold sea,
let the cold ocean breeze touch her,
walk over sharp rocks
avoiding cuts in her feet.

She wants to feel the grass tickle her,
to see the big evergreen trees,
to smell the ocean,
to be a part of it.
But the strings are holding her back
and the windowsill is as far as she can go.

She wishes to swim away in her daydream as a fish.
She wants to cut those strings,
break the window,
and fly away free as a bird.
Away to her wishes in the sea.



“The Windowsill” was written this year by Lucy, a fifth grader at Whittier Elementary in Seattle. Lucy worked with Writers in the Schools writer Erin Malone, who visited Lucy’s classroom many times over the course of several months with challenging and engaging poetry lessons. “The Windowsill” is an ekphrastic poem, written in response to  Edward Hopper’s painting, “Cape Cod Morning.”

For examples of WITS poetry lessons and poetry by students, please peruse the WITS Blog.


Lilly Wasserman



He had eyes like sewn seeds
anxious, I thought they might
come unstrung and sprout again
raining from white casks
over clawed hands
beetle-backed and tight
through slits to the moss below.

Flax shoots of hay
pierced his overcoat at each elbow
porcupine fractures of desert bone
wind-whipped and waterless,
forever pointing south.

He was a dizzying character
a flailing hand-packed half-man
tossing his stuffing
in miscalculated blooms
and chuckling curses
as they blew away.

In the dark
I could track his pace
by the hay’s friction, stooping
every mile to retrieve
his fallen innards, mumbling
apologies, shoving and gathering
them back into his rags.

A mess of burlap scrap
salvaged from a yam sack
and missing buttons
he was desperate for cognition
more lofty
than dismembered bales
jousting through holes
in poor needlework.


Lilly Wasserman is a burgeoning poet and creative writing major at Western Washington University. She was born in Boston, grew up in Seattle, and is currently living in Bellingham while she attends school. Lilly is studying for her bachelor’s degree in English and Art History and will graduate in the fall of 2013. “Scarecrow” is part of a larger collection of persona poetry, which adopts the perspective of Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz. This is Lilly’s first published piece!

Student Poem

Sliver of a Life
by Niyathi Chakrapani

She had told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
But the newspaper only printed it once.
There was also
A quote from his favorite baseball player;
Some clammy, optimistic Bible text;
His birthday, a mere memory now;
Awards from college, received years ago
In subjects he did not pursue;
Names of family members he had not talked to in years;
Meaningless compliments;
His job, which he hated more than one could imagine;
A blurry picture with too much sunlight and exposure;
And his love of the Yankees,
Quite understated in saying he merely “loved the team.”

She had told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
With the tears that she abhorred
Sprinting down to her fragile chin,
Pouring down like livid rain.
The reporter feigned pity and said,
“I am sorry, ma’am. This must be hard.”
She wanted to punch his contrived smile.
There was anger and sorrow in her eyes,
The most pitiful of combinations.

And when she read the newspaper that day
She took all the liquor in the house
And smashed their bottles
Till the shards became paste,
Sprinkled across the now-chipped wooden floor
Like freshly fallen snow.

The little square of words,
A banal sliver of a life,
Or a stanza trying to compensate
For a beautiful elegy.
The meaningless banter of a child,
Repartee and badinage,
A cruel joke played with good intentions
On the most mournful of souls.

For in that little square of words
There was no mention
Of how he always got ice cream on his nose,
And laughed as she wiped it off and licked her finger;
Of his yellow, pirate-like grin
Which could light up the room
More than the whitest and straightest of insincere smiles;
Of how he refused to leave the stadium
After the Yankees lost
Because he couldn’t bear to be in his home, in comfort,
With the thought of their failure looming in his mind;
Of how he cooked Thanksgiving dinner
Because she had a fever that weekend,
And though they both ate burned turkey that year,
It was the best turkey they ever had.

As she told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
She knew she would never drink again
For the drunkenness of another
Was what had killed her love.
After that vow she grabbed the last bottle of brandy
And threw it over her fence,
As far as her slender arms could bear,
Knowing her pain lay in that bottle
And wishing it could shatter as easily.
There was anger and sorrow in her eyes,
The most pitiful of combinations.

She ran back to the newspaper,
Intent on ripping it to shreds,
But could not bring herself to harm
That little square of words,
A banal sliver of a life,
The last dregs of a forgotten eulogy
Spoken only in her mind.

For on that paper there was printed
A quote from his favorite baseball player;
Some hopeful Bible text;
His birthday, a loving memory now;
Awards from college, received years ago
In subjects he wished he had pursued;
Names of family members who loved him;
Innumerable compliments;
His job, which he only continued out of love;
A picture taken in a beautiful meadow;
And his love of the Yankees,
Quite understated in saying he merely “loved the team,”
But stated nonetheless.
And bottommost of all there was printed
Three simple words, more innocent without repetition,
Quoted with a name:
“I loved him.”

So she clutched the paper to her heart
And let fall her abhorred tears.



Niyathi Chakrapani is a 15-year-old poet from Sammamish, Washington who received four regional gold medals and a national silver medal for her literature in the Scholastic Young Artists and Writers national competition, as well as several local awards in the KCLS library system’s Rhyme On! competitions and the Issaquah Youth Board Poetry Slam. Niyathi loves to write poems about her deepest feelings and observations about the world, as well as to put herself in the shoes of other people and write poems from their perspective. She also loves to write and perform songs, volunteer, and eat chocolate.

Student Poem

Queen’s Room
by Katie

the queen’s room like
parking in a sea of China

the silver tin on a table
opening memories

the small tinge on the pillow
is like a useful unnoticed
antidote being stored away

I smell solid gold in the queen’s

is the queen home? because
I’m snooping in her room

I’m not supposed to
be here. See me wiggling out


Katie wrote this poem as a third grader at View Ridge Elementary. She recited it last night for Caroline Kennedy and a sold-out audience at the Seattle First Baptist Church. The members of the Sanislo Elementary School Poetry Club and a Seattle University student also recited.  The event was sponsored by the Seattle Public Library and Elliott Bay Books for National Poetry Month. What, you didn’t know it was poetry month?

Student Poem

Galileo Demands An Apology
by Sarah Groesbeck


“Eppur si muove: and yet it moves.”
– Galileo Galilei

How fickle and stubborn
you are. Once praising my telescope and
the celestial bodies uncovered,
now branding me a heretic
for going against God and His scripture by saying
we are not the center.
I set out only to discover the truth;
to follow the evidence
with a mind open to wherever it may lead.
You, however, carelessly dismiss my results
by thumbing through verses.
And yet it moves.
I implore you, open your eyes and look
to the heavens, to our sister Venus
and the revolving moons of Jupiter.
See what I see;
only then will you discover
the Earth is moving.


Sarah Groesbeck, a Seattle native, is a student at Highline Community College. She is going for her AA degree with an emphasis in Mathematics. She decided to be brave and took a Creative Writing class where she discovered a new delight in poetry.



Student Poem


by Miles Hewitt


& in between passionless crimes—

(so for the lack of humanity,

  the careless abandon

and the forgoing of burden)

I looked into your eyes & thought




& you smiled

& asked me

what I was thinking about

I brushed you away

off the bed

pushed you over the nightstand as

the lamp with wavy grasping shade reached

& the globe on the shelf & the maps

on the walls slipped & sighed

& you collapsed on the ground—


‘I don’t know’ —


but I wasn’t lying.


Miles Hewitt of Vancouver, Washington was one of five student poets chosen as finalists in the National Student Poets Program. Miles represents the West region of the United States. The awards were announced at the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington DC in September. The National Student Poets Program is in its inaugural year. It is a joint project of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Miles has been writing since the third grade. In the eighth grade, he discovered musical artists Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and moved on to songwriting. Since then, he’s penned more than 100 songs and self-recorded two albums. Miles fell in love with poetry more recently. A junior now at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, he’s a member of a small group of writers that come together to workshop one another’s pieces and offer support. Outside school, Miles serves as the President of the Young Democrats of Clark County and as the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of his school newspaper. He’s considering a career in political communications or speechwriting if the “rock-and-roll-poet” line of business doesn’t pan out.

READING IN OLYMPIA:   Miles Hewitt and Kathleen Flenniken will be be presenting poems (and perhaps Miles will perform a few songs) at 6:00 p.m. in the Columbia Room of the Legislative Building (State Capitol) on Thursday, November 29. The program is sponsored by the Washington State Library and is free and open to the public.

Student Poem

Stranger at a Funeral
Eliot Johnson


Who was this guy? And why
am I at his funeral? Some friend
of my grandfather, godfather of my uncle,
whose name I hadn’t heard until yesterday
when my mom searched my closet for a dress shirt
because my dad wanted me to see this.

We stand in the back with the less-related, the second class mourners,
nearer to the daylight and the fresh air. Someone passes out candles. In the front,
the priest, obscured in thick smoke, recites verses in Russian,
or Latin, or something, the auctioneer for the corpse. A woman in a pink shawl
whom I caught a glimpse of as she disappeared behind the stage
cuts into the priest’s recitation with disembodied chants.
As he talks, the priest swings his incense ball on its chain
like an exterminator fumigating an apartment. The smoke holds back
whatever light penetrates the thick curtains and obscures
the saints staring vacantly from the walls. Was the church always
this dark, or did years of incense leave stains like cigarette smoke?
(When was the last time they aired this place out?)
The dead man in the open box barely registers as
a sideshow against this smoky cave they’ve put him in.

There are no stories, no memories, just the smoke, the blue hands crossed
on the motionless chest, and the quiet sobbing from the first row.
The bereaved file past the casket and kiss the metal icon
laid on his forehead. The priest asks us to pray that the dead man
chooses not to become a ghost. The woman in front of me
crosses herself for the hundredth time. Then, finally,
it’s over. We blow out the narrow yellow candles, the pallbearers load the coffin
into a scuffed black hearse, and the mourners disperse, squinting, into the grey
Seattle drizzle. Everything appears normal again as I slide into my dad’s SUV,
and we leave the church behind to go see Nana at the hospital.

A moment important for those close
just sort of sailed by me, noted, but without impact,
another death on the news.


Eliot Johnson is 21, lives in Okanogan, and is earning a transfer degree at Wenatchee Valley College in Omak. Eliot writes, “I’ve messed around writing fiction for most of my life. I actually started this poem several years ago after the funeral of my uncle’s godfather, but didn’t make much of it until recently, when I re-worked it for the poetry component of a creative writing class.”

Student Poem

Ode to S
by Kate (3rd Grade)

S swirls around each star,
it dances on the rain cloud of the
you hear it coming
when S streams by,
as if it was late for something
almost as important as a new
born baby stepping into the light of
the universe.
S has the texture of dew
in the morning,
as the mist streams out of
the night before,
S dives into the depths
of children’s words


Kate wrote her poem, “Ode to S,”  as a third grader at View Ridge Elementary in Seattle. I had the privilege of working with Kate through Writers in the Schools, a wonderful program that inspires students to write creatively and powerfully by placing professional, passionate writers in the classroom.  In the 2011-12 school year, 24 writers-in-residence taught poetry, fiction, comics, memoir, and playwriting to 5,520 students in the greater Puget Sound region.  WITS will celebrate the publication of a new student anthology on Sunday, September 30 at 5:00pm at Benaroya’s Recital Hall, with a reading by student contributors.  The event is free, open to the public, and unforgettable.

WITS is part of Seattle Arts and Lectures, who will be honored with a Mayor’s Arts Award on August 31 at Seattle Center.  Congratulations SAL!

Student Poem

Today’s poem is by Rose, age 16, who participated in the Pongo Teen Writing Project in the King County Juvenile Detention system. Her poem is featured in There Had to Have Been Someone, one of 13 print poetry anthologies that Pongo has published over the past 17 years. Please watch a short video by John Sharify, Poetry flows from teens behind bars, featured on KING5 News yesterday, for more information about Pongo’s important work with distressed youth.


Ice Cream Man

I just thought you should know
that sometimes I’m afraid of you.
I don’t mind you rep’ing the gangs,
but sometimes when I look into your eyes,
I see violence against me,
I see violence against your grandma,
and it hurts me inside.

I just thought you should know,
I want to work in here someday,
helping kids that went through what I went through,
help them understand why I ran away from home,
because my parents beat me,
because the stress in my life
made me do something stupid.
I was the girl who stopped going to school,
I was the girl who stopped listening to her parents,
who started drinking and smoking.

I just thought you should know
that one side of me wants to be with you
and one side of me does not,
and the side that does not is confused,
feels like a lost sheep.

I just thought you should know,
I see myself with a happy family
in a park, Oakland, CA, eating barbequed lamb
next to the swimming pool while dads play tennis
and moms talk and serve food
and all the Tongan people speak to the ice cream man.

I just thought you should know
I’m tired of seeing what people do on the streets,
and I’m tired of being part of it.

I just thought you should know,
I want to say hello again to the ice cream man.

Dedicated to Z


“Ice Cream Man” previously appeared in There Had to Have Been Someone, 2011.


Rose, age 16, wrote “Ice Cream Man” with the Pongo Teen Writing Project, which teaches and mentors personal poetry by distressed teens all over King County, especially those who have a hard time expressing themselves. Pongo is the brainchild of poet Richard Gold, who has worked tirelessly to create, maintain, and promote this program that helps  youth understand their feelings, build self-esteem, and take better control of their lives. Pongo’s trained volunteers establish writing projects inside juvenile detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, and other sites.  The Pongo web site provides writing opportunities and invites youth to write poetry on the web site.  They also happily share resources and teaching methods with counselors and teachers, all for free. The program was featured on KING5 News in Seattle yesterday.

Pongo Teen Writing Project from Richard Gold on Vimeo.