UPDATE (June 8): Click here for the story.
ORIGINAL ENTRY (June 7):
Fremont student Sarah Li, a junior at Mission San Jose High, will be picking up an American Voices Award at Carnegie Hall in NYC on Wednesday. This award is considered the “gold medal” of writing by the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program and puts her in the company of writers Truman Capote, Bernard Malumud, Joyce Carol Oates and Sylvia Plath; actors John Lithgow and Robert Redford; and artist Andy Warhol, who all have received Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in the past.
Li is one of 17 students nationwide to receive this honor — one American Voices Award is given out per region. Li is the only one in California to receive this award. A more in-depth story will be in tomorrow’s paper. Meanwhile, here’s her winning poem, which she wrote after learning about children who went into hiding during the Holocaust. (I apologize for the formatting. I’ve tried everything to get the spacing right, but for some reason, WordPress is being difficult. I hope I have not bungled the integrity of the poem.)
you can’t cure this in a day
by Sarah Li
you do not remember ever having been a child.
you remember knowing the feeling of childhood:
sticky, caramelled fingers that were not yours,
smooth-as-silk ridges of beautiful-blonde- Helen’s braid
afternoon-long games of
you were always lost.
because when you were in that cellar,
suffocated by the silence and
drowned in the darkness and
unable to escape from it all,
there was only one place for you to go:
and it was sickeningly easy
to lose your way
inside your mind.
MAKE IT STOP.
god, please. anyone,
if you’re pleading loud enough,
if you’re important enough,
if you even matter anymore.
because you still wake up,
at a quarter to four in the morning
you didn’t have to see the bombs drop,
the cousins shot,
the friends and schoolyard enemies
dragged away to somewhere you
do not want to, cannot, will not imagine,
the mothers’ hollowed eyes, seeing
their baby daughters
some nights it makes you feel like a coward.
some nights you really do feel alive.
but most nights you just feel
you know you weren’t beaten half-to-death,
weren’t forced to Work To Make Yourself Free,
weren’t experimented on, laughed at, stepped upon.
but you remember imagining it every night.
1. being some kind of alive
in a dark, damp cellar
with eighteen other two-to-thirteen-year-olds
silently screaming for release.
2. someone out there, everyone
wanted you and “your people”
1. when you’d be able to see what
was out there again
or whether you’d even see it again
2. being able to sleep
because you were always afraid
and always hungry.
you’re not the same,
you don’t really know,
you weren’t really there,
you weren’t real.
you aren’t real.
because if you aren’t real,
are the nightmares real?
is the fact that you’re still hiding,
still not ready for that knock on your door,
is the fact that you’re seventy-three years too old
to be afraid of the dark real?
and pretend that your hiding place was just
for the blond-haired blue-eyed to find you.
but the afternoon would always come to an end,
and they would always go home.
and you would still be hiding
in the dark.
and never found.
and an ocean away
from what you were.
we will all be well-worn
Maybe when you read this,
I will be there, too,
and maybe we will all learn how to forgive
but not forget,
But if I am not there,
if I am not there to forgive nor forget,
not there to say:
EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY,
because of our story,
because we will no longer be here to tell these stories,
the world has changed.
It might take
two, ten, fifty years
for it to happen.
But please, if you still remember me,
tell me it has.
bombs still being dropped,
cousins still being shot,
friends and schoolyard enemies still being dragged
to places where they will never be seen again,
mothers still having to watch their
baby daughters die.
and you aren’t entirely sure
if it even wants to.
Reprinted with permission from the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.