Hannah Ling, age 16
I wrote this poem inspired by the theme “Onward.”
I am hopeful for tomorrow morning
when I walk to the fenced-off river behind houses,
greeting the squirrels on the wall.
I am hopeful that tomorrow
when I remember the camera,
that one bird with gray feathers
and black chin and white cheeks
will be in the papaya tree,
looking over its shoulder at the 7:40 sun.
I am also hopeful for the storks on the sandbank,
long toes buried in the rotten water.
I am hopeful for their measured stride through washed-up garbage
and for the way they hunch
like old men in flight.
The little heron follows them through the air
and also the gray heron and the egret,
legs hanging like party streamers.
They are hopeful for fish,
just as the blue-tailed bee-eaters are hopeful
for rain and telephone lines.
Like the storks they launch themselves upward,
pterodactyl wings cutting shining turquoise wedges
through the river air.
Like the bee-eaters I launch my voice through a telephone,
catching open-mouthed the sound of my grandfather’s
blue silk shirts;
like the shimmering birds swinging on the wires
our good mornings flicker south to north
throwing themselves high in search of the same hellos.