Lauren Young, Second Place


i am not afraid of fire. listen: not long ago,
my skin shriveled to ash with my husband’s. hands
clasped together to pray to the gods of a hierarchical religion,
syllables of faint hopes dragging themselves out through my
disbelieving mouth. teeth still blessed by the fragrance of oil for
the dead and the echoing farewells for him, the ones for me.
i am climbing onto a wooden pyre for supposed
equality, the idea that if one goes, so too must the other. what
holiness, what sacred tradition do people believe in to
cause more death? that a widow is not her own body,
not an existence already framed by more grief and sorrow than
could be imagined. her stories go unheard, drowned out
by the crackling red, tarnished wood, and a man taking
more than he deserves. they tell me this ritual is for
my own good, a harbinger of fortune and the divine, as if
a goddess should rise from the woman buried beneath
patriarchy’s flames. on this night of burdened shoulders and
ripped pleas, i am not thinking of useless devotion, or how
travelers will later visit this place and commend my willing spirit.
i am looking to the lonesome stars, wishing that should i
be unlucky enough to be reborn, let my soul wait until
there is a time where widows can stay on this suffering earth.

Second Place: Lauren Young from Stamford, Connecticut, United States, for “Burn.” Lauren attends Trinity Catholic High School and is in 12th Grade.

Lauren Young is a student from Connecticut, USA. She likes to use creative writing as a way to reflect on personal observations and events that occur around the world. She prefers poetry, and when not writing, can be found listening to music, sleeping, or reading.


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