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High school poetry winners honored

Local winners in the University at Buffalo high school poetry competition, which drew 560 poems from around the country, were honored Saturday at UB. Winners received a copy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Selected Poems 1974-2004" by Carl Dennis, who judged the contest.

Lauren Burkard of Williamsville East won the $200 first prize and Christopher Johnson-Roberson of City Honors won the $50 third prize. (He won first prize last year.) Here are their poems.

>Extraneous Root

What should be as easy as a basic logistic function
is now turned into an argument of complex numbers.
What you saw as a common difference
I saw as a leading coefficient.
These obtuse feelings you claim are indifferent
carry an amplitude of meaning to me.
This problem whose derivative lies in her,
an extraneous solution in our radical equation.
She was conjured against all my calculating and recalculating,
where I found that this was indeed a closed interval.
But still she crossed the boundary of our converging lives.
How, after we reduced like terms
did she stem into the picture?
How did our happy binomial become a trinomial
of which she was our third root?
The reflexive property of equality
tells me that A = A,
So how is it possible here that A = A her?
Our simple harmonic motion has been destroyed
by this unseen statistic.
After you brought her into the equation,
Our balance was lost,
our roots too many,
and this combination
is now an empty set.
-- Lauren E. Burkard

-----

>Gravity

Out from the throng he appeared, nameless,
like some poor supplicant in a concrete cathedral,
open-mouthed and shunned by all the eyes.
I wanted desperately to close the gap in
his face; it had all the familiar touchstones
of death in it, quiet and weary and
utterly resigned. There remained but one or two
paces, the slightest movement, and then the bony
grin, without an outcry from the missing tongue,
would creep out from his dusty countenance. It seemed
he was destined to sift down, reluctantly dirtying
the unswept floor. Still, I wished to hold his hand, or
whisper words of hope, some gentle prayer to
raise the dimming eyes. Yet it was not my place --
no, not my place. I wondered,
in that wordless guilt that comes often,
who would answer for this crime? I only
sighed, my judgment blindly indicting
Gravity; a force unyielding, universal, uncontrolled.
Indeed, we all imagine so; what sad,
too-earnest soul could bear the blame?
Even now, he does not chide; at last he is
dissolving, despite the question reaching
from his lips like a single hand outstretched.
-- Christopher Johnson-Roberson

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