Danielle Obisie-Orlu. Photo courtesy of City of Asylum.

Youth Poet Ambassadors

Phoenix Thomas. Photo courtesy of City of Asylum.

colors of wrath

by Phoenix Thomas

is there not bliss in anger
is it not beautiful
to be so enthralled by an emotion
that not even your body can handle the aftermath
isn’t it wonderful
how pain can mold you
into something that is almost unrecognizable
isn’t it amazing how tears of hurt can
dry faster than a pool of blood
so you think, “maybe the rage isn’t worth it,”
but my god, isn’t it beautiful?
how words can paint a picture
but rage can fill a museum
and you, my friend
have exhausted the space on your canvas
so you cover your hands
in the colors of wrath,
and create a masterpiece so great
that not even you
can recognize your own creation.

Phoenix Thomas, 16, is a junior at Westinghouse Arts Academy, where he studies writing. He is a member of his school’s Black Student Union, which strives to elevate the Black voices and talents throughout the academy. He prides himself on his activism for marginalized communities through participating in local actions for Black lives, volunteering and writing, which he aims to educate and help others heal.

Ekow Opoku Dakwa. Photo courtesy of City of Asylum.

They will know me

by Ekow Opoku Dakwa

First day of the school year-
New teachers
New students
New grade

I wonder…
How will they react when I open my laptop?
Or when I speak?
Or when I ask for help to cut a piece of paper?
Such simple tasks that are like mountains in my way

The thoughts run through my mind
What do they think-
As I look down and type away whilst they speak?
I don’t write with a pen
Because these hands don’t write what I ask them to
When I speak, do they really not understand?
Are they tagging me as lazy, incapable, unable?

What I do know is that at the end of the year they will know me
My talent, my skill, my passion my drive
Oh they will know me!
And they will know that this disability doesn’t define me

Ekow Opoku Dakwa, 15, attends Allderdice High School. He loves to read, write, program board games and participate in paratriathlons. His interest in chess led him to win the Pittsburgh City Championship for the 24 Challenge Game for his grade. He was a National Ambassador for the 2020 Do The Write Thing challenge, from which his essay on youth violence and how it might affect him as a person with a disability is published in the Library of Congress. His goal is to use writing and programming to create tools and resources for other people with disabilities.

“I think about issues that I face that people without disabilities do not even have to think about,” says Opoku Dakwa, who has cerebral palsy. “Written words help me express my thoughts more easily than spoken words and allow me to get my ideas into the world.”

Aja Lynn. Photo courtesy of City of Asylum.

Mind and Hand, Pen to Paper

by Aja Lynn

I am not the things I write.
Nor the words that leave my mouth;
My actions and mistakes,
Are nearly indiscernible these days.

On these days, I will not
Regurgitate thoughts that are not mine,
In hoping that integrity
will always live here.

Hearing the difficult things
Never gets easier.
But today I will listen, and
Pay attention like I should have yesterday.

I have important things to write about,
But I am afraid they are not mine
To put words to, to say
It is a terrifyingly vulnerable thing.

Things are big and frightening,
But this world wants us to forget.
Regret has reinforced these walls for long enough,
And I refuse to leave it all to time.

Time will not become my excuse,
with words unloose on my tongue
My writing is not who I am,
But neither is this passivity

I am young, so then,
I still have time.
I’ll fight with my sword, and
Pick up the pen.

Aja Lynn, 16, is a junior at Hampton High School. As an avid creative writer, she appreciates the freedom that poetry provides. She is a member of her school’s Speech and Debate Team and is involved in the Drama Club, the Musical Club and the Writers Club.

“I have the pleasure of being surrounded by close friends who also have a knack for writing, an ear for the profound and a joy in sharing thoughts,” she says. So it is them that I have to thank for making me more sensitive to the poetry around me that is waiting to be written.”

Shivani Watson. Photo courtesy of City of Asylum.


by Shivani Watson

I am haunted by a girl who walked on
air. Even flower fields are filled with bombs
Like comets which fall from the sky towards
Our house waltzes across a mountainous
Ballroom. Our partner is already aflame.

My heart is a fire, living outside my body.
He cooks with me but all I taste are the
Ashes. Our family is woven together by
contracts and curses. It will unravel
once shooting stars return to the sky.

Shivani Watson is a senior at Allerdice High School, where she founded the Environmental Sustainability Club and contributes to environmental activism. She has composed and performed music through the Creative Expressions Program at Carnegie Mellon University. And she has served as an editor and writer for her school’s literary magazine.

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Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is a Pittsburgh-based editor and writer who writes about food, entertainment, kid stuff, pop culture, cocktails!