I was good.

Red barrette.                        Toy train.                                 Sidewalk chalk. 

            Or I, bite the dentist; or I,

                                                smash my face into the trunk of the car 

Green station wagon. 

                              Blue snow sled with the yellow


Or I; salt spilled over slugs in the backyard 

                                                                      Bees crush under my bare


Yellow brick bike shop. 

                                              Baskin Robbins rocky road. 

                                                                                                    Bottle Rocket. 

I was good. 

Black barrette.                          Cigarette boxes.                        Clogged drain. 

              Or I, wear a blank face; or I 

                                                    Skin both knees on pavement 

Green felt hat.
                     Blue latch-box filled with ink 

                                                                      And needles 

Or I;

             Will always talk too much but never 

                                                                      Say what I really mean. 

Fern O’Shea’s poem “Before and 2004” won first prize in the Seventh Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Fern is a freshman in the Photography and Video Department at SVA.

Judges Timothy Leonido & Jeff Beardsley had this to say about Fern’s prize-winning poem: “‘Before and 2004’ may seem, at first, like a nostalgic poem. It begins with a recollection. With delightful ambiguity, the speaker refers to a time in which they were ‘good.’ Bike shops, ice cream, and bumblebees populate this foggily recalled world. They seem like personal images; yet, they are also very general. This could be anyoneʼs childhood. The body of this poem is broken up into sparse images. Scattered across the page, their relative distance from one another corresponds to the occasional blank spots of memory. The reader must stretch to assemble them into a complete whole. Perhaps most striking about this poem is that it does not settle in romantic recollection. Instead, it thrusts the reader into the future with a closing question: Can one cherish these simple memories while allowing room to grow? The poem enjoys the abstract, but yearns towards the concrete: Have I talked too much? the speaker asks. And will I ever say ‘what I really mean’?”