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In honor of National Poetry Month in April, NeXt prints a selection of poems by young poets from the area. The first four won prizes in the University at Buffalo's poetry contest for high school students, which attracts works from all over the country. The photos were part of the Kenan Center's All-High Photo Exhibit.

This poem won first prize in the UB High School Poetry Contest.
Dear Convenient Store Worker,
Your eyes looked faded, like the uniform you wear and resent.
Your hair looked greasy, like the heart-attacks on sale this week.
Your hands looked worn and dirty -- nails eroded from nervous gnawing and
countless state sponsored scratch-offs.
Your teeth looked yellow and brittle, stained by years of double sugar
and cream, years of every imaginable cola in the back fridge, and years of Newport 100s -- the
wintry menthol eases
your stress in a cancerous caress.
You looked doubly intoxicated. Your body moved like one bludgeoned
with alcohol and religion,
the two hardest drugs available.
You looked like a long, sad sigh atop shaky, sore poles with shoes -- standing not on the
but in the cement, watching it slowly solidify your place behind the cash register.
Aaron Seyedian, Dunkirk Senior High School
This poem won third prize in the UB poetry contest.

18Y: From Across the Canyon
Let's take a day to contemplate graves
or paintings, spines of books, trees --
anything to keep our minds off the move.
Before that time,
I had held several hard, clear things to myself,
cupped them in my palms and press them
to my chest while the movers bustled. I had
packed them away meticulously, polished them like bones
before we left but they were left
behind -- And who handles them now?
or lost -- And, tell me, are they ruined?
The wind which whistled hotly like breath across the shore
where I used to live
scattered the objects I had held and moved me to this place
where I watch heart-swelling waves unfurl
like curls of glass.
-- Katherine Reedy, Nardin Academy
This won fourth prize in the contest.

3 a.m. Letters
This is a letter written at 3 a.m. when morning wouldn't come
Tossed aside under the ticking clock and spent cigarettes
Keeping a beat to the radiator's hum
This note I'll leave will taste of hate and rum
Like every other sad minuet
This is a letter written at 3 a.m. when morning wouldn't come
And every other word I'll write will amount to some small sum
Like the rain of the windows, a strange and perfect set
Keeping a beat to the radiator's hum
Someone feed the cats; lately they've had only crumbs
Their standards were high, they just couldn't be met
This a letter written at 3 a.m. when morning wouldn't come
Soon it will be too late to tell, it's all been said and done
Like puppets dancing in an ashen vignette
Keeping a beat to the radiator's hum
There are no more notebooks, no more prizes to be won
Tell the priest it was an accident, another secret never kept
This a letter written at 3 a.m. when morning wouldn't come
Keeping a beat to the radiator's hum
-- Claire Brown, Orchard Park High Schoo
This won honorable mention.

God bless that sinking,
syncopated feeling
Wrapped around my stomach
like the asp it is.
I've tried things that would turn your skin to soap.
I pray
to slip and slide
on that slick surface.
Instead of just under as
I often am.
-- Sara Luterman, Orchard Park High School
The following poems were submitted by NeXt readers.

The electrical world is not one like ours.
Electricity is the blood
wires are the veins.
Silence is the deadly world of electricity.
My screwdriver reaches toward the motor.
I haven't made it work yet.
The motor sparks and groans
pushed by my screwdriver.
it gives up in a puff of smoke.
My screwdriver reaches toward the motor again
Its metallic ends making contact
With the frayed ends of wire.
The electricity buzzes through me
hums like an angry wasp
tingles the nerve.
"Let go," I tell myself.
"Let go."
John Broxup, 13, St. Leo the Great School
Naught of Me
You see naught of me,
But I am here.
You hear naught of me,
But I make a sound.
You feel naught of me,
But I try to make my presence known.
You think naught of me,
Yet I invade your waking thoughts.
You do not know it yet,
Nor shall you ever,
But I will be here.
-- Parker James, 12, Clarence Middle
That man
That man walking down the street
looking at me, he so smooth.
That man looking so fly, being so deep
that 3 is 4, you know?
He's an old friend from the past you know
the geeky one.
He's like the smooth jazz cat. Reminiscing in the sky
going by saying hi, you know?
That's why he's that man.
-- Aqmera Williams, 10, School 61
Purple Here, Purple There
Purple, where are you?
Oh, I see little flowers
That are violet in my garden.
Come on, purple,
I will find you
In the sky
I see plum clouds
Dropping lavender gumdrops.
I bet I am getting closer.
There are magenta worms and footprints.
I feel like a mauve human
Looking for my lilac dog
With purple splots.
Maya Barnes, fourth grade, Native American Magnet School,