2012 Grand Prize 
Category IV
(Grades 10-12)

No Moon, No Place, Never

 The desert ran like a
                              black serpent. It pulled planes down into its orbital
and the tribal men watched fireworks on the
                  second half-moon of every month.

Falling, falling men in a failing war, falling to the sand and mothers at last.
                  Some stumbled to the edge of the village from their burning metal cockpits.
Others were only a lightshow. What distinguished between the two was a matter of
                                          physics, not destiny.

I was born there, somewhere, sometime: in the land without calendars or clean
                  shoes. An old, brown woman took a piece of chalk
      to draw the moon’s shape on the ground instead.

The old woman said today is your birthday,
      she said remember the crescent’s shape, she said
      now.

It’s been years then it’s been decades. I’m afraid to go home because
      that would mean another plane ride. That would mean meeting Physics in
      her layered
kimono, the tribal men awaiting my fall to dust.
                                                 The fear eating away at my sleeves with its teeth.

So instead I let my American family celebrate every birthday for me, even though sometimes
                  the crescent looks wrong in the New England sky, too clear or
                              not curved enough.
So instead I live paranoid of the vacuum that comes with desert or burnt sienna.

Because homesick tastes like copper rings in our tongues, like poisoned
                              astrological marks
                  in the virgin sand. I forget the old woman’s drawing along with my surname.

My desert spits its jealousy up into the stratosphere.
My desert, beige indent on the uneven globe.

My desert erases the birth chalk off thirsty earth.
                  It says no moon, it says no place, it says
                  never.

Cathy Guo, age 15
Madison, Connecticut

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