Musings on Paradise from Groton Poets

Groton School's library, in association with the student-run Poetry Club, held the second annual Coat and Stripes Poetry Contest in April, National Poetry Month. 

Students were welcome to submit any style of poem; as organizer and school librarian Mark Melchior wrote: “Sonnet, haiku, free verse, etc. Cinquain, anyone?” All entries were required to relate to the assigned theme of “paradise,” an effort “to refocus the energy toward something life-giving,” Mr. Melchior said.

Earning first prize was Fiona Reenan ’23, followed by second place winner Christina Chen ’23, and third place winners Johnny Fan ’22 and Will Vrattos ’23. Judging the contest were English teachers Martha Gracey and John Capen and students Amelia Lee ’22, David Wang ’23, and Julie Xie ’23. 

Please see below for the first- and second-place winners. 

paradise is the space in between the lines
by Fiona Reenan ’23

Today I saw wildflowers 
creeping between concrete cracks
on the fast-lane side of the Santa Ana 5, 
and at that moment I realized
is the space in between the lines.

I want to know how to dance with palm trees
like the wind does in May, 
so I too can be an invisible Fred Astaire, 
tangoing a million miles away.

I want to drown in the emptiness
between hands of young lovers and 
tattoo myself with the ink from margin notes
scribbled between frayed covers. 

I want to study astronomy 
Until I finally understand black holes. 
How can something so full of nothing
be anything at all?

I want to soak myself in paradise
until my fingers prune against the glass, 
then I’ll turn up that old record player 
until all I can hear is “Piano Man.”
And I want to be buried in concrete 
just so I can plant more seeds between the cracks.
Someday my wildflowers will grow from grey, soulless stone,  
what is paradise, if not that? 
Ode to San Francisco
by Christina Chen '23

We sing of paradise
In Latin verse,
In spaces gilt by
The watchful eyes of saints,
perfumed with
incense and the quiet breaths
Of the congregation 
lulled into soft contemplation –

Among the stained wash of light
The notes float,
Sailing forth on swells of consonants
Bearing precious cargo,
Memories of sacred places –
The dancing saints of St. Gregory’s,
Beckoning to join in with
Their merriment;
The shade under blossoming cherry
Of Bayview Mission,
Gently shedding petals on
Joyful noise;
The crystalline steps of Jacob’s Ladder
Cascading from a 
Grace Cathedral rafter, 
Illuminating a path above
The parade of ruffled collars;

These are the paradises found
between the familiar grids of 
San Francisco,
Not quite the canals of Venice or
The paved streets of Florence
Framed by the Duomo
Yet still a diorama of virtue and
Strength, flanked instead
By ocean and stoic redwoods,
High pillars upholding
A dream from a forgone year
realized at last.