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Poems of Peace

Winning Poems from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Annual Poetry Contest

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but the reverse can also be true: Sometimes it takes a child to raise a village. When it comes to addressing the world’s gravest ills, young people often have a freshness of vision that is an invaluable tool for creative problem-solving. Luckily, the world is getting better at recognizing that our youth are the key to our future. Among those organizations acknowledging the power of youth to lead us forward is Santa Barbara’s Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF).

Founded in 1982, NAPF is a nonprofit group dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons and to peaceful world leadership. Since 1995, NAPF has held an annual writing competition, the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Contest. Named after the wife of NAPF cofounder Frank King Kelly, the contest is open to applicants of all ages from across the world. The poems printed below are the winning entries from the youth categories of the 2007 contest. These are the voices of tomorrow’s statesmen and women, thinkers, and problem-solvers. They are our best hope for a peaceful world.

Ages 13-18

Megan Elliot

First Place (tie): “My Brother, the Soldier” by Megan Elliott from Overland Park, Kansas. Megan served as an editor of her high school yearbook and is now majoring in English and journalism at the University of Kansas.

My Brother, the Soldier

Bombs go off in brains

Neurons fire imaginary explosions

To pounding eardrums

Mom slumps in the wooden kitchen chair

Elbows on the table

A glass of wine or two or three

And tears and tears and tears

He’ll be gone for Christmas again

We open presents silently

Avoiding each other’s eyes

And his name

Mom gets drunk

And says “Fuck the war”

Dad and I do the dishes

I walk outside in the chilling air

Tiny Christmas lights twinkle secrets at each other

They are grenades exploding in the desert

I write a letter in my head

I tell him a joke about mom

I ask him to come home

I wish him Merry Christmas

Maybe he’ll be home this time next year

Hopefully he’ll come home next year

He has to come home

Hanna Hurr

First Place (tie): “Love’s Lullaby” by Hanna Hurr. Hanna is from Laguna Niguel, California. She plays on her school’s varsity tennis team and is the president and founder of the Malawi Club.

Love’s Lullaby

A mother cradles her child against her thin breast

And gazes sadly into deep shining eyes, a mirror of her own

The infant cries, wanting milk

But there is none to give

The woman has not eaten in days

And her breasts are dry as the bone-cracked land that

surrounds them

She whispers into his ear

A single word

Peace

Suddenly the stars rearrange

Painting perfect patterns in the inky sky

Apologizing for their constant pandemonium

Mothers look at the sky, listen to the stars, and whisper

Vrede

Hetep

Rauha

Irini

Heiwa

Soksang

Rongo

Amani

Santiphap

Ukuthula

The word flows from mother to child

Cracked lips to soft ears

The newborns remember without understanding

Years later, as the world writhes in war

The word ricochets in the grown children’s minds, and they drop their weapons

Silent, thoughtful. They turn their heads to the sky, and again, the stars sing.

Age 12 & younger

Celeste Fox Kump

First Place: “In the Form of Rain” by Celeste Fox Kump of Fort Bragg, California. Celeste plays soccer, loves reading and writing, and wants to become an author.

In the Form of Rain

War is a fire,

anger,

fear.

It crackles,

burns,

sputters,

kills.

Its eyes

red,

angered,

wild.

Its teeth,

black,

jagged,

sharp.

They rip,

tear,

hack,

threaten.

And yet,

with all the power and menace,

peace comes,

in the form of rain.

First it sprinkles,

rains,

pours,

and slowly but surely the fires of war are put out,

and there is peace,

in the form of rain.

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