Artwork by Ashley Palemonte

Senior and Art 1 student, Ashley Palemonte, art titled “Emoji Me.”

1st Place Winners of Art Festival go on to District Competition

February 17, 2021

The Santa Ana Unified School District’s 3rd Annual Literary Conference or “Lit Con” is Thursday, February 25, 2021, 6-7:30 p.m. See @sausdarts on Instagram for sign up link.

1st Place Prose: Brighter Days are Nigh

The light of the winter sun wanes past the horizon. It paints streaks across my skin as I stand with feet sinking into the powdery snow. I can feel its familiar burn beyond my closed eyelids and in my chest. If I focus enough, all I can feel is both the heat and the cold trickle through my body. The shift between hot and cold, and cold and hot–it feels dizzying yet relieving. It’s as if I exist at both ends of two extremes at once. 

I should have worn warmer boots, pulled on thicker tights, or even grabbed a hat on my way out. My only good choice was a scarf, thick and red. The braided texture is rough against my neck, but it does its job finely at keeping me warm. My aunt knitted it for me last winter, apologizing for her sloppy work. I wish I could tell her that it was beautiful. 

I can’t imagine how I must look: a lunatic standing in midwinter, with a big jacket, thin sneakers, denim jeans, who’s bleeding at the neck. And yet, I trudge deeper into the snowy field.

My torment greets me in the form of a barren tree. Once full of blooming leaves, of apples, of warmer days and memories, it now stands solitary among a graveyard of stripped trees. It’s almost pitiful to see something once so full of life be worn away by nature’s touch. My eyes wander to the words I know so well etched deep into its trunk: brighter days are nigh

I don’t know who wrote it, but as a child, my aunt’s wild imagination tried to fill in the gaps for me. It was a snow elf. A fox. A bird with silver wings. A forest spirit. We’d spend evenings under the tree, sharing silly stories under the glow of the sun. There’s a pain in my chest, this time not from the cold, but from the ghost of that memory. It hurts to remember what can longer be. I have nothing left of my aunt but this red scarf and the warmth of the memories of those days.

Death, when it hits you, when it hurts the most, does not hit like a moving train. Maybe if it did, the pain would only be momentary, like a snowflake falling only to dissolve into the snow. It hits you softly, like the caress of a pair of fingertips. It hits you slowly, then all at once. Like snow from a branch, piling and piling on your shoulders until the bitter cold seeps into your jacket, leaving you a frostbitten blue. 

I want to curse at the winter sun, so bleak, so maddening. In the pale light beneath the tree, it is no longer the warm pearl that I long to hold in my fist and store away in my heart. It is a lemon gone sour on my tongue, for how could it shine on a world like this? 

In my stupor of grief, my eyes almost fail to catch the budding bloom near my feet. My heart stops. If anything were to be a sign, I would think it was definitely this. Kneeling down, my fingers brush the waxy petals of the snowdrop lodged in the snow, and I think of those dark winter days, of the warm days in the past, of me in my aunt’s arms. 

Hope, if nothing else, is the snowdrops stretching their limbs towards the sun, yearning and pushing through the frost. If such a small flower can bloom in the midst of such cold, such desolation, then I too can learn to face the sun again. 

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1st Place Poetry: 1926, 1963, and Now

Empires rise and fall with the tide of time,
pushed by manpower and resources, pulled
back by the inability to adapt.
I see the country that is supposed to be mine,
Controlled by racist, xenophobic, ignorant
Yet again, I see that I’m trapped.
I rise to my friends’ frantic notifications.
The morning is no longer guided by Helios’
chariot of the sun,
But with the news of insurrection, a riot, a
mob incensed by that one.
On my left is “the Don’s” elephant, ignorant
of its crimes.
Its caretakers are shrouded in money’s green,
The red of their uniform is faded with time,
They’ve reversed over 100 environmental
regulations, almost unseen,
To me, that red now speaks of doom,
That bloodied tint sullies the House and its
white rooms.
I know what they think of people like me.
“Foolishly opinionated, amateur, free,”
I neither fit the white mold,
Nor want to be so ludicrously bold,
Those who do fit adorn themselves in
eagles, stripes, and stars,
While I fear they will start wars,
They’ve nothing to fear,
Not with support from the starred uniforms
they hold so dear.
Pillars only stand if they remain newly
So what good is an America who won’t
follow her modern children’s course?
There is no point in tradition,
When it leads to sedition,
And his words, tweeted in red-hot hate,
They neither followed tradition nor
discouraged sedition in the state.

For-profits prisons must be stopped.
Halt expensive healthcare before it kills,
The military budget needs to be dropped,
Increase the minimum wage so people don’t
have to work 25/8 for their bills.
Invest in social workers, not unnecessary
military power and protection.
When our Black siblings need not fear for
their lives,
America will be a step closer to perfection.
Give our LGBTQA+, our women, our arts
and sciences the support they deserve.
Give our educators the funding they need,
Only with diversity, the humanities,
and knowledge will justice be served.
Don’t shy away from the horrors of our past.
Explain why they are horrors,
And why such practices cannot last.
Save our ecosystems, save our bees.
Don’t let into office,
Those who buy support use destruction to
settle their fees.
Fully support the tribes whom upon this
stolen land once freely tread.
Don’t desecrate their burial lands,
Address the damages and improve
immigration policies instead.
Humans are weeds.
Alive in the rough, the stars of earth,
Changing for the better is our rainbow creed.
And one day, we of ethnicity, humans of the
same flesh and bones will see.
Our families, unmarred by war, uncalloused
from grief, sitting at the same table,
When equality, equity, and justice are not
Of this America, I can say, “I too,” “I’m

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