2017 runner up

Stitches – Tessie Rose Poutai Tipene

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Mum’s stitches colour me like dark crayons striking paper.
My beautiful mum’s stitches find me on rainy days I tried to hide.
Broken vase upon a cold tile sorry Mum
Mum I’ll be better than the little girl I was last week.
I need fixing, stitches
stitches you say will hold me together
If not now then forever.
I’ll understand one day how dads lie and kiss their bottles instead of mums.
Oh Mum, Mum, black and blue the kids at school ask why I have these stitches
and I smile and say they’re glue.
I’ll stay together better than the best of yous.
Mum used to sing for me but Dad taught her to teach me right
and someday I won’t make the same mistakes.
Mum’s stitches stay with me
even when they’ve

Tessie Rose Poutai Tipene
Year 12
Te Wharekura o Mauao

Circles – Logan McAllister

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Yelling and singing in the dark, riding in circles in the park.
One of the best nights of my life, spent with boys I know and love.
Feeling we could take on the world.
Making the glorious pilgrimage to the fast-food joint that serves all night.
I’m riding Andre’s brother’s bike. He rode it when he was eight years old.
The wind caresses my grown-out shaggy hair, making my black funeral scarf fly behind.
The scarf gets caught on my eyes, leaving me for a few seconds blind.
The three of us make a grand trio. We never plan what we get up to on these nights.
No girls, no drama, no fights. Only unconsciously finding trouble.
On this particular night, the cheap, greasy meal tasted better than ever.
The way back, we’re stopped by a pair of cops, to fine us for not wearing helmets.
Andre utilizes his clever tongue, pulling the funeral card, telling them of the loss of our fourth companion.
The wolves decide to leave us troublesome sheep for today, in search of an easier meal.
We arrive home and return the bikes to their assigned spots in Andre’s garage.
The floor felt nice that night, sleep coming easy that we’d had a grand night.
Creating iconic stories to tell our grandchildren.
It’s unintentional I swear, it happens every time.

Logan McAllister
Year 13
St Andrew’s College

The Gift – Anna Doak

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The Gift

i.m. Mum 1962 – 2017

Mother we made a wishing well
together with the sinners.
We peeled back their resentment
and gifted their hearts to the stars.
You and I constructed
the shape of God’s entrance
the patchwork of our bond and your love for
notre famille uni, our united family.
The sound of the colossal sea
lulled you to sleep at night
and we would spin torrents of water
to make prayers.
We used to tell tales of princesses
that needed saving
but we are stronger than that.
Mother we are.
We were the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
We’d bake ginger bread men
with crooked arms.
We’d run between the hedges
and you’d count to 45.
“Ready or not?”
I was not ready.
In photographs it’s always summer
you wore burnt orange
and parted the sea.
Mum you are free.

Anna Doak
Year 12
St Margaret’s College

“The Astrophysicist and the Mathematician” – Hannah Wetzel

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“The Astrophysicist and the Mathematician”
If somehow stars were landmarks, and the universe an old gambling town
Mercury is the motel we always drove past but never stayed in
I like to think of the way that trees grow, and how we all decompose into nothing but the soil – but most of the time
you tell me I’m indulgently metaphysical.
Though I know you’d only learnt that word last week.
The other day there was a boy, standing out in the storm.
He turned to me and said “Why are we all here? But because we like the way the rain hits the ground”
So matter of fact was he, that I began to ponder where I’ve been.
How I’ve lost microseconds just switching between the channels playing on my subconscious.
Maybe that’s where the time went
I’ve often pondered what would happen if I stepped out of my body
But here in the frigid winter is the realisation
That from the very rickets of my being
Up to the fragile lines of the mosaics on my fingers
I would simply break
Into blossom
Now I think back to you, leaning against the counter in my kitchen
Resting your hands just a little too close to the stove
My god, you really did look wonderful
Though but a metre from you,
There’s salt in the sugar bowl
The tea’s gone cold
And we don’t listen the same music anymore.
But in some ways I do hope you keep me
As the familiar creak in your floorboards
Hannah Wetzel
Year 13
Kaitaia College

ALRIGHT – Emily Rais

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We wrapped around a street lamp;
like a gift all bow-covered and taped neat on the edges,
we turned its light to darkness.
Maybe we’d been drinking.
The lights perhaps were a little too blurry,
pulsing and winking like live things.
I was distracted but then
it wasn’t me behind the wheel,
pedal to the floor.
She’ll be alright,
they used to promise us when we were just small,
patting our sandy hair with rough, tanned hands.
That summer, bare feet sticky against the tarmac,
we believed the age-old farmer wisdom we were too young to understand.
For she’ll always be alright
until she isn’t anymore,
until we’d wrapped ourselves around a crooked street light
at a hundred and twentysomething Ks an hour;
until your sandy hair was all rust-red
and the lights blurred behind my eyes and I couldn’t reach you;
until you wrapped us around a street lamp and the ribbons wound themselves around your soul;
until the rain turns my hair to straight sheets –
your funeral shroud –
until you sink, sealed coffin, to the ground before us
and suddenly I am alone.
Still those rough, tanned hands pat on in a sympathetic rhythm
and she’ll be alright,
they promise.
She’ll be alright.

Emily Rais
Year 13

Dad – Katie Rata Gotlieb

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He is laughing maniacally,
words twisting out of his mouth,
winding together creating utter nonsense.
His head is thrown back,
his eyes glaze over,
the car drifts, speeds, swerves.
he becomes quiet,
head tilted away from me,
staring out the window at god knows what.
I coax him towards home.
I couldn’t leave him standing in the middle of the street,
staring at the sun setting,
pink purple orange red like the words that leave his mouth.
Glimmering stars,
basking in the cold moonlight.
Unpredictable, a beautiful mess.
The shine of the streetlight make his eyes flicker for a second,
away from the dull sheen.
But they soon begin to dance and swirl,
to the rhythm of the waves,
the tilt of the earth.
And once again he is gone,
lost to me.
Skipping off in the spotlight of the moon,
leaving a trail of pink purple orange red,
colours that burn.

Katie Rata Gotlieb
Year 13
Otago Girls’ High

String Theory – Piper Whitehead

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String Theory


I don’t know very much about physics, but here’s everything I know about string theory,
more or less. And a bit about some other things I know, as well.

The first thing I ever learned about string theory was that it was made up to tie all of our
disparate branches of science together, which makes me think of it like a string that goes
round and round the universe, holding it together like a bundle of wheat with a cinched waist.
Holding together our Melania Trumps and the quasars,
our traffic rules and our cats in boxes with the dwarf stars and the wormholes
and all the little bits that make up atoms, tied together with an asteroid belt.
And that’s our Albert Einstein, standing out there, the galaxy’s conductor, our new century’s
Atlas, keeping the universe from falling apart.

The second thing I learned about string theory (and something I probably did know all along)
is that it doesn’t actually work like that. Really, not even close.
Instead, it’s the idea that everything in our universe is made up of tiny strings. To a physicist,
a string is anything that is much longer than it is wide. Physicists see strings in much the
same way I see people. A person is anything that is much more thought than science.
But the essential thing about string theory is that no one really knows if it’s true or not.
Although by following that train of thought all you really end up with is a whole knot of
questions chasing each other’s tails because no one actually knows if any of our theories
about the universe are real or not.
It’s a bit like that Joni Mitchell song about the clouds, but more mathematical – we really
don’t know strings at all.
Most people find that a bit off-putting, which is understandable.

But perhaps the most important thing I learned about string theory is this: To a physicist,
everything is made up of strings. And, someday, that’s going to explain everything.
Everything in the whole universe. We’re all much longer than we are wide.
I guess, in that way, string theory does hold people on earth together with the dwarf stars,
because being made up of the same thing very nearly makes us the same.
And maybe if string theory can connect us with celestial objects several million light years
away it could even, someday, connect us with people.
The way other people think may be the only thing in the universe more confusing than


Piper Whitehead
Year 13
Diocesan School for girls

Tauranga – Antonia Smith

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Laura’s mum’s friend is wasted
she is slow-moving-glassy-eyed wasted
we are babysitting her daughter, Danielle
after, beside the milky, milky pool
tilted away from the many-splendoured street lamp
the stars are so pretty, very very pretty
and we are laughing laughing
Laura’s head drops right down
between the two wicker pool-chairs in the dark
I feel bad for Danielle, I say
Danielle, says Amy, who is Danielle?
and Laura and I laugh and laugh
and on the grass (which is so cool, very very cool)
I mould my clay thoughts
and push my brown fingers into the dirt
and the grass is beneath the stars
the next morning on the intercity bus
I look at the tattered edges of the Mount: stained
brick houses, yellowing lawns
sad and relentless
the air is scorched by the lenses of my sunnies
Danielle’s brother is at least 30
her father is fishing in Dubai
Laura’s mum’s husband
says her mum got pregnant with her on purpose
I leave my sunglasses on
even though the windows of the bus are tinted
we are still hours from Auckland

Antonia Smith
Year 12
Rangitoto College

Three views of the Rakaia – Millie Hulme

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Three views of the Rakaia
I swim up the snow-fed braided river of Rakaia.
Unstable shingle bed,
never still.
silt the colour of spring melt.
I make my annual sea run.
Held in suspension but moving.
Never stopping.
Pain throbs
and pulses in my head.
Not a sharp pain,
more of a dull pounding of a hammer.
The roar of the shingle is reverberating,
my brain can’t process properly…
A pink lure catches my eye.
I am far too wise to take that bait.
I am a fisherman.
At the river mouth
I stand alone,
a solitary soul.
Knee deep in hope,
anticipating a tug on my pink lure.
It’s all about the waiting.
I cast above my head,
piercing the surface of the water.
The line dances.
I don’t know what is on the other end.
My imagination runs with the line.
I have a catch.
Catch and release, catch and release.
Until I find the one, the one
for my dinner.
The cobalt Rakaia swiftly moves beneath my feet.
Starting deep and swift.
Force off the mountains.
Getting wider, then separating into strands.
Braided on the Canterbury plains.
Peaceful yet deadly.
Sheltering fish,
riding rocks.
They pierce my skin with fishing lines, and hooks,
paying no attention to boundaries.
Twisting, turning and thundering,
my soul is the moving river,
my body is the riverbed.
I spit out a mouthful of fresh water into the sea.
The first ray of the morning sun tiptoes on the pebbles.
The dusk sleeps on the riverbed.
But I am always awake.

Millie Hulme
Year 13
Timaru Girls’ High