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Ben White performs his winning poem in the Montclair Literary Festival poetry slam. COURTESY BILL SOLOMON

The Montclair Literary Festival is presented by Succeed2gether, an afterschool
tutoring program for students in grades K-12. The slam — spoken word poetry — included students from Montclair High School and the town’s middle schools.
We’re interested in hearing from you as well — please send us your published or performed
student writing from literary magazines and other school and neighborhood organizations!
For inquiries write to culture@montclairlocal.news.

The first-place winner of the high school section was Davida Task, then a junior, for “Generational Trauma Comes through a Hole in the Wall.” She preferred not to publish her poem.

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READ: LOCAL WRITING; ‘BECAUSE I’M BLACK’ BY KHAILYN HUGHES-SELLERS

READ: LOCAL WRITING; ‘POSIE IN ANDERSON PARK’ BY SUKIE GRABCHEWSKI

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“The Boys who Play Sports” by then-senior Ben White, won second place in last spring’s high school section of the slam:

Sometimes I think about ants

Not often, but I do

When the thought arises, it is always in the negative

It vexes me how seamlessly they can blend into nearly any background

Without the need to think twice about how the foreground might react

They can enter any painting and neither add nor subtract a thing

A dull taupe across their new setting

Why the artist chooses to add them beats me

I suspect it’s because their nature is innocuous yet their presence somehow conjures angst

And it’s not like I too, can’t march in the ant parade

But they will know I am a termite, an imposter, a fool

A faggot

If I stick out like a sore thumb, then they are the other nine digits

Unsullied, pristine almost

You don’t even know them but you know, somehow, that they belong in their exact places

Square blocks in square holes that can sand off their edges to fit into a circle at will

I am not yet prepared to face my own inability to join them because they fear that I will pounce on them

As the praying mantis that they fear I am

The irony lies in the fact that in most of the tales I’ve heard, we are not the ones praying

They pray on the ants that are darker than them

Who walk on the paths, in between the grass blades, across from them

Keeping to themselves and yet they are preyed on mercilessly

Engulfed in media trenches and whittled down to the least they can be

Until eventually they can be stomped on

Squished with the boot of a thousand, belittling voices

But there is something more positive there

Not admiration

No, never that

Maybe it’s longing

Desire, passion

To maybe join their parade

Sometimes I think about boys

Straight boys who do unspeakable things to boys like me

Not often, but I do

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