Words Unlocked 2016!


Young Utah Poets Write Great Poems,

Dominate Words Unlocked 2016!!

Congratulations to the 19 young poets from Utah who will be published in the Words Unlocked 2016 Poetry Anthology. Words Unlocked is a month-long poetry initiative and national poetry-writing contest for students in juvenile justice facilities, sponsored by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings. For a full description of Words Unlocked: www.ceeas.org/words-unlocked/


And, congratulations to Utah’s six Top-13 finalists, including a 1st Place Winner (tie) and 3rd Place Winner (tie) and a Highly Commended Winner. The poems with audio of each young poet reading his or her poem follow.

First Place (tie)

School/Facility: Salt Lake Valley Detention Center
Teaching Artist: Bonnie Shaw
Poet: C.R.

I feel the heat in my body like I am bathed in sun.
Palms sweaty. Muscles tensed. Tears well up.

I won’t let them run.

My face red, the flames of fire, angry thoughts screaming louder than the screeching of a vulture over a traveler’s carcass.

I look for a way to escape the flames, but I am trapped in a box.

Punching white walls as jagged as rocks, my knuckles bleed.
I want to shout behind the green door that won’t let me out.

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie – to me they’re all the same. I feel more like the number on my file than my real name. When I speak to my father, I leave ashamed. I try to do my best but anger, stress, sadness are hidden in my chest, heart, soul.

Group homes, proctor care, secure facilities hanging over my head like a
knife swinging from a rope.

They try to dissect me. I guess they’re curious.

I don’t even understand: Why am I so furious?

Third Place (tie)

TITLE:  Sticks and Stones                                                                                                          School/Facility: Salt Lake Observation and Assessment
Teaching Artist: Bonnie Shaw
Poet: M.D.

She walks down the hall at school
Hears: Slut, Skank, Whore, Tramp, Worthless White Trash
Those names that hurt more
Than the abuse she gets at home when
She hears: You’re not good enough, You’ll never be good enough.
She gets backhanded: You are a mistake.

But she doesn’t cry because she knows:
Words will never hurt you.

Sticks and stones.

She walks down
the hallway at school,
everyone stops, stares.
She starts to cry.
The silence hurts more.

When she hears: Slut, Skank, Whore, Tramp,
she remembers:
Sticks and stones.
She becomes a stone and
A slut, a skank, a whore, a tramp.

So she wears that too-short skirt,
that show-too-much-chest shirt,
those bit-too-high heals,
the too-much make-up,
She wears the too-tough face,
Don’t-mess-with-me attitude.

She becomes good enough
for the guys, good enough
for herself,
Good enough to prove her family wrong
– and right.

Then — Who is that girl?
She is the girl
who lost the respect
of her family,
who didn’t have the courage
to be different,
who couldn’t stand up for herself,
who couldn’t stand not to be in the spotlight.

Now – Who is that girl?
She is the girl who found her way,
remembered her name,
who dug herself out of that hole,
remembered she is not a stone
or a slut,
who learned how to be herself again.

Highly Commended

School/Facility: Granite YESS @ Adolescent
Residential Treatment and Education Center
Teaching Artist: Bonnie Shaw
Poet: T.O.S.H.

She looks
into the eyes of the monster
in the mirror
and she realizes
it is her self.
Her hallow cheeks,
sunken in eyes
are bruised, black and blue,
have witnessed when the sun started to warp and tweak,
witnessed when her life became bleak.

The next time she slides a razor deep into her veins,
she’ll remember the pains
she felt when
she watched the meth melt.
She’s looking back to all the scars
never kissed,
looking back to all the people missed.

She’s looking back to before
she was behind bars,
looking back to before all she saw
on her wrists were
deep scars.

She’s never been so low in her life.
Now she’s just suicidal, holdin’ up a knife
to her wrists
as the thoughts in her head begin to
She’s just thirteen.


School/Facility: Granite YESS Program
Teaching Artist: Bonnie Shaw
Poet: A.T.

I wonder – Why you were never there?
Why you didn’t stay?
Instead you went away.
I looked for love of any kind,
But there was nothing that I could find.

I ponder things
Every day and every night.
I wonder – What you, My Father, look like?
Black hair or brown?
Are you tall or short?
Are you outgoing and loud
Or quiet and subdued?

I imagine you tall and mighty.
Or do you struggle with confidence like me?
I imagine you searching for your destiny.
Or do you already know who you are?

When I think about you,
I can’t help but smile.
I see you helping people, painting and building
Houses for homeless families, children who
Used to run on the street,
With nowhere to call home.

Maybe one day we will meet
And discover we are both looking into the same brown eyes,
The same eyes long filled with pain,
Now eyes of joy and union.
And we may have things to gain.

I am grateful for the life you gave me.
I hope that the things I dream are true,
Maybe one day I will be just like you.

School/Facility: Wasatch Youth Center
Teaching Artist: Bonnie Shaw
Poet: N.P.

Bricks, I see them every day.
They each have a name.
Cuz none are the same.
Regret. Lies. Selfishness. Shame.
Regret, for the pain I caused,
Lies, for the love I lost,
Selfishness, for the hurt I applaud,
Shame, no Fame, for this life isn’t a freaking Game.
Bricks, they’re solid, yet I hope to break free,
But I can’t have what I cannot see.

From inside my cell I feel pain.
As they say – Without pain, there’s no gain,
Avoiding the situation because I feel the pain,
I hide in the dark,
Away from the arrow that will eventually hit its mark,
Gouge a wound so deep,
It will leave a scar.
Just the way words affect the heart,
But we know where it comes from,
At least that’s a start.

Bricks, they’ll be there till I tear them down,
to rise up, smile and not frown,
Become the king I was meant to be,
And accept the crown.

Fun time is over,
And let it be known,
Waste no time for others who don’t care,
And become the man I want to be,
If I dare . . .

School/Facility: Wasatch Youth Center
Teaching Artist: Bonnie Shaw
Poet: A.G.

I’m tired of sitting in this empty cell.
The crimes I committed
make me think I’m going to hell.
Why do I choose this life?
Why can’t I do things right?

I’m sorry to my family, all of those I hurt.
Rest in peace
to the homie
lying in the dirt.
Why do I hurt the people I love?
Why do I only love some?

In & out of lockup,
that’s the way I live.
But I can’t stop.
Why am I locked up?
Why can’t I stop?

I’m too addicted
To the rush.
The life I’m living is rough.
I feel like I’m a screw
that’s made out of rust.
Why am I stuck between good and bad?
Why is my life so sad?

One day
I’ll be able to change.
It’s going to be hard.
This was the way I was raised.
Why is it so hard to change?
Why was I raised to live this way?

I grew up seeing
my parents locked in a cage.
I grew up with dogs,
the ones that can’t be tamed.
I’ve seen the streets steal kids.
Very little remains.
Why did I have to witness these things?
Why did I let these things impact my dreams?

All these memories will be with me
till the end of my days.
I’m a product of my environment.
Man, I don’t know if I’ll ever change.
Why is the only thing I can say?
Why did things turn out this way?





One Comment Add yours

  1. I should have said “coming soon.” At the end. Oops! B



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