“Rolling Waves” (poem)
by Sarah Ouyang
12th grader at Ridge High School, Basking Ridge
English teacher: Nicole Gilmore
Second place award: $250
Author statement: “‘Rolling Waves’ is a symbolic portrayal of the way in which I have perceived the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the nautical imagery appears only tangentially related to the real world, the Bacchante in fact represents a community such as mine, seemingly shielded from the cruelty of an unforgiving tempest.”
On a dark expanse of sea, an ocean of ocean,
Black and green and purple
With froth like white ribbons tracing webs
Across the glinting blue surface.
Clouds hang heavy overhead,
Ripe and round as plums, nearly as dark,
Lamenting the loss of the tears they shed.
Brother joins sister as the rain
Dives into every rolling wave on the Stygian plain.
A feeble square of chestnut brown,
The dim glow of a sound idea
Among the turmoil of confusion and doubt.
White fabric tearing into the wind
As fiercely as the wind tears in return.
Slowly capturing every tear from the clouds,
A vessel of black, seraphic sorrow
And the promise of gilded sunshine tomorrow.
Within this compact of wood and cloth,
The crew celebrates another day or another night
On their beloved Bacchante.
Within her womb of canvas and oak,
They forget the wrath of the storm,
The misery of the tempest, the fear of the eye.
Amid bread and wine and nectar and God,
Morphing hunger into laughter
As they feast on camaraderie and salted cod.
On the rolling waves the Bacchante sails,
Leaving land in search of land.
The crew might never lay eyes on the sable crests
Or fill their throats with grains of salt,
But they kiss even still the walls of their Bacchante.
They know she protects them, and the storm
Frightens them in their dreams,
Yet only in their dreams do they learn to breathe.
Under a satin blue sky,
The sun the color of flushed cheeks,
With only the rolling waves for company
Dancing and swaying and singing in cobalt peaks.
A gull and his flock smile and soar
Their hearts swollen by the picture of natural grace
After the daunting tempest, free from the eye.
The crew on the Bacchante knows nothing,
Only the food meant to nourish, the warmth meant to comfort,
And the four walls meant to protect.
Linda L. Hellstrom, Founder
Caroline Godfrey, Co-Chair
Karen Gruenberg, Co-Chair
Elizabeth K. Parker
Diane Naughton Washburne