Poetry, Grades 10-12: First Place

Untitled— Hannah Bernstein

This poem, untitled for a reason, left blank,
for the boy in my history class. This is for you —
you say anti-Semitism is fleeting and beautiful; thinking
my body is not a cavern of all who came before me.
Am Yisrael, who died to set me free.
I hear your voice, cracking, new;
it explodes m’ha’shamayim, my free American skies;
but they are littered with false blues. The same sky here
is the same sky everywhere, the same sky
where false blues turn to red as we blink.
And I still like to think that when the sun rises
over the Old City, telling us we have survived again,
everyone stands completely still, because I would.
But too much fog lies between me and that holiness —
sickly gray between my lips and clouds in my eyes, blinding me.
I have kept silent about this war; letting the air
speak for me instead of my mother tongue.
Untitled air takes up space, it fills the empty —
but with more blankness. The monster in the quiet night,
he whispers: forget who you are, and I did.
But I am the woven basket that carried Moses to his destiny,
I am the well that followed Miriam, and the ark and the dove,
I am the forty days of rain, blue water falling like air;
cleansing me. I sent my sins away with Azazel in that bleak desert, and
I blessed Israel’s tents with Bil’aam’s voice in my head.
I rode through history in the mouths of those who kept us alive, I am
the continuation. Torah sheh b’al peh grows in me,
and I have never felt more radiant.
I am clean, I am new, I am free from my own shackles,
the monster is me in the mirror but I turned away from him.
I am speaking. My mouth is open.
When you look away, who will speak for you?
Who will speak for you, if not yourself?