Writers Art BC Youth Poetry Contest Winning Submission

The full poem Her Own Memorial by Rena Su, winner of the 2019 competition

Image courtesy of The Writer's Art

By: Rena Su, Pacific Academy High School

Editor’s Note: Alison Wick

This spring, The Writer’s Art, a club run by SFU students passionate about poetry and literature, hosted their inaugural BC Youth Poetry Contest. The contest was open to young writers from across B.C. and this year’s theme was “Born from Ashes.” The poems were judged based on relevance, originality, and technical ability by a panel of SFU students. 

The winner of this year’s contest was Rena Su, a 15-year-old student from Pacific Academy High School in Surrey. The Peak has been given permission to publish her poem, Her Own Memorial, on the-peak.ca so that the winner’s work can be shared. Find the poem, in full, below.

  1. i) HER OWN MEMORIAL

She found herself in a sterile room, empty

Buried within roads of bandages

Epitaphs etched upon open scars branded

In pools of ashen skin

‘Acid Attack Victim’ meant

The ensnaring vines of wires 

Tightening around her body

Constrained.

Caged.

Coiled.

By a thousand white snakes.

She was no longer epitome of a golden age 

Instead fabric buried her golden face of flaws.

The sink mirror showed a stranger.

Glaring; grimacing through winding waves of gauze.

She grimaced back. It burns.

The girl bride remembered

The day she wore gold chooriyan bands

Veneered with crimson

As she aimlessly glided to the bhangra with grace

Her lehenga drifted and her bangles glistened

Pain lingered in her beaded ankles but also 

Behind her sweat-beaded face

He asked for her hand — with the crowd watching

A mutter amidst strumming of Indian folk chords

He was thirty-six. She was sixteen.

The cheers of the relatives said yes for her.

While a rejection rested upon her vocal cords

It burns.

She remembers

His constellation of gifts. 

Of foreign sweets and bollywood movies

Amid those boxes were questions of marriage 

Once and once more

They burnt her.

It still burns.

Is she gone? Inside she screams and calls

But to no reply — only the clock shuffled on.

She gazes towards the bandaged monster

Who suffocates within the white shawl.

The constellation of gifts became constellations of broken glass

Torn like her grades and tests; mangled like the skin on her back

Those bottles were empty but the more he drank the emptier

He became.

And he poured acid. When she ran.

As if the world’s trail diverges

Into meanderings of the multitude

Of things in her mind, sprinting

From all the trouble, sparring

The echoes that say it’s her fault.

Her peeling eyes still see his face

It burns.

The hospital linoleum becomes burning flashes

Beauty’s widow ponders as her skin is seared

What would become of her

What good is born from mere ashes?

What good?

The echo becomes rhetoric to the winds, 

Away to the boulevards of Kanpur

As she absorbs the sizzling anger 

Embedded on her face, blazing fires

Not of hell 

But of scorching, searing injustice tattooed 

Upon her golden russet shoulders

Broken out of the shackles of chooriyan, washed of vows

  1. ii) POST-CREMATION PRELUDE

She peers back at the stranger of the mirror

Traversing down the lines of gauze with her finger

She wears the sweltering deserts, blazing sun

On the side of her cheek.

She runs down her skin and sees

The valleys of dawn 

She gazes and finds rivers of power

On her tongue, and she speaks

Past the drowning liquid flame

May she rise.

Like smoke and the fire

She will rise.

Past the unbounded inferno of injustice

Past Hatred’s smoldering chains.

Candlelit kerosene no longer an entity within a lantern

But a flame powerful and consuming

The fuels of Injustice’s ammunition

Prelude to a rising phoenix

She found herself in a sterile room, empty

Taking threads off bandages, unravelling.

As she uncovers the flames on her skin, rattling.

Her story too shall burn on.

‘Acid Attack Victim’ meant

Resilience.

Resilience. Amid pain. Amid suffering.

Resilience. Towards the unknowable.

Liquid fire burnt away her skin

But the fire inside her remained, uncontrollable

As it burns and burns

And as it burns away the shadows of lament

The sink mirror shows — Her.

Peering. Focusing. 

Scars.

But only a scarred face,

Not a scarred heart.

She smiled back, a phoenix.

Rising from Transgression’s embers,

She burns — Glowing.

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