Poetry is everywhere, if you know how to look.
Cloe Dickson saw poetry in the backyards of Manchester.
Dickson was this year’s winner of the Peter Millimet Creative Writing Contest, which recognizes Manchester high school students for their creative writing talents.
Dickson, who graduated in June from Manchester Central High School, received first prize for her poem “Youth,” a coming-of-age piece inspired by her childhood in Manchester’s north end.
“Most of my young life was spent outdoors with neighborhood kids, which essentially becomes the setting for the poem,” Dickson said. “‘Youth’ is a tribute to the influences in the last eighteen years.”
The contest honors Peter Joseph Millimet, who died in a car accident when he was just 23. Peter’s parents, Joseph Allen Millimet and Elizabeth Gingras Millimet of Manchester, created the Peter Millimet Creative Writing Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in 1976 to honor their late son, who was a talented writer.
Manchester high school students submit their writing to the contest, which is judged by New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice B. Fogel. This year, Fogel reviewed a record number of entries. Of more than 50 submissions, seven — including Dickson’s — were honored with cash awards.
Dickson will attend the University of Colorado in the fall and study environmental science. She has already added the $450 in prize money to her college savings account.
Second prize in this year’s contest went to Hannah Morin, third to Sama Rashid. Jennifer Hepler, Emery Veilleux, Liam Downing and Erin McHugh all received honorable mentions.
By Cloe Dickson
We slept on a bed of sawdust in a desolate field of what once was.
Under our crumbling covers we stumbled to discover the damage on salmon hands that managed
to give vantage to the August sun, teaching us that it did not poison but help us to become.
Each of our palms were embalmed by wrinkles soft as spring but one evening you would
convince my every inch not to flinch even when you pinched, prodded, and poked.
I would joke about the winter we tried to live inside one another after your brother made a girl a
mother but your eyes, like limes in the summertime, could not defend him this time.
Our prayer to him became the tearing of wallpaper from the corners of cul de sacs layer by layer
but we were not purveyors or soothsayers or anything else but role players in our neighbors’
yards, with our cuticles cracked, unbeautiful and scarred.
We sleep on an abyss in a broken field of what is.
We would hang razors from the seams of our sleeves and shake hands at lemonade stands but
when our parents would ask why the gutter was crammed with human blood, I would shrug and
hope you had manned up enough to tell them.
I watered my lawn with kerosene and my fears so that you could set fire to twelve years of
school pictures, to a dozen late fixtures of myself that will forever bond blonde hair to every
blade, to every wave in this tangled sea of grassy braids before me.
You would drive your mom’s beater by the remnants years later and the smoke would still billow
like phantoms that hid from closed eyelids in the closets of our childhood rooms so neither of us
felt comfortable staying, but I want to say a stray tear made its way across your face.
In the haze of streetlights we lay for what felt like days, because in these faded rays it was safe to
survey our skeletons in search of the gelatin that had replaced the bones inside us long ago.
We will sleep beneath pond scum in an aching field of what’s to come.
To me, you will forever be seventeen and running seven football fields in front of me, and every
time you skin your knee on the daisies unseen beneath feet in the summer heat, I will hurry you
to the hospital inside of my head and it will be left unsaid that these bandages I will brand around
broken cartilage cannot cure the wounds beneath bleeding melanin.
You burned out instead of shined and every tissue of mine is irrevocably scarred by the brilliant
flames of your phoenix body.