2023 runner up

How to Dream – Oshadha Perera

By | 2023 runner up | One Comment

How to Dream

Dreams are when your eyes are closed,
each breath falling on to the empty air,
pulsing around your bruised skin,
and you would remember how you walked
for miles and miles and miles,
until your feet cracked open,
red soil under the red clouds,
a lost sky gushing down with water.

Dreams are when your mind learns to drive,
speeding along the highway, back home.
See how the mountains are still the same red,
and how the barbed wire still glints in the sun?
Remember how you hid behind those tussocks,
eyes closed, face pressed against the ground,
tears dissolving into the hardened soil?

Dreams are when you stay awake at night,
feeling the lactic acid boil in your legs,
open eyes that stare into nightlight
and thawed memories that run down your cheeks.
You’ll taste the new language,
the sweetness of mangoes and mandarins,
imagining tomorrow, a new day,
but your eyes will still be moist,
your legs still ready to run.


Oshadha Perera
Year 13
Southland Boys’ High School, Invercargill

Perspiring and Frantic Home – Isabelle Lloydd

By | 2023 runner up | No Comments

Perspiring and Frantic Home

Our voices are of dried leaves,
in contradiction to this endlessness of water,
this bathtub summertime.
Dried leaves belong to radiant Autumn,
we danced upon their blushing skin
in faint and evanescent yesteryears.
Our limbs are of creaking timber, the damp how it
penetrates depths unplumbed.
The months that basked in sweat must now
confusedly lug
buckets which rupture their plastic banks, and
spill a thousand leaks.
I push my singlets to the bottom of the draw,
and slowly I unpack long-sleeves.

Flesh of our lips, plunder of the fruit tree,
and our wordless throats the husk, the shattered pip.
Spilling promises sweet as peach,
promises as rotted as this slow wrecking ground
of crops.
Promises, promises, promises,
Can you hear me, or did my voice
just cut out,
and fall into darkness?
Has it fallen asleep beneath a fallen tree?

Beyond the gravel complexion of the city,
beyond the corrupted nursery song of traffic, alerts,
and machinery,
whose whining and wailing falls so rasping and tinny,
so coarse
upon the reddened drums of our ears,
we are liberated from the exhausting facades.
And there lie battlefields of unsoftened shapes,
dirt and diluted sweetness.
This nectarine’s curves delivering a firm syllable,
no supple obedience of furred skin.
And my days they do not ripen, for though they
warm rapidly
they blow and they cry.

Among the ashen blot, we consume and devour
as starved children cannot afford.
We churn out wastepaper baskets
crammed to their greedy front teeth, throats
Headlines bear a nervous tic of
foreboding, are millionaires of alarmism.
And in my morning pilgrimage to the shower,
I trip over lurid pixels.

Our waste is red roofed and dogged in shame.
Standing at its vigil by the curb, rain spotted,
for the rest of your lifetime and mine, it some days
A puddle lingers in my chest, a bubble
does not pop
upon the quail’s egg paving squares,
nor under those washing machine trees.
The power has surged and cut, and they haven’t
enough electricity,
not even enough to blow dry their leaves.

A father preaches of a generational shift
from four distinct seasons into two volatile unknowns.
Two vast and careless beasts
who take seconds from the soup tureen, until
its thinned guts grow to slump
within their ceramic shell.
Monstrous, they devour double the identity
and time of the year.
Rainy season and dry season, monsoon and drought.
Here lie the feral extremes
of global warming’s rising house.

From the bleak and bloodied edges
of our sight,
we gaze at your arctic expression, your
scalding, spitting candle of a mouth.
As you swoop to crush ours
and pull, snatch, drive away,
at the air we shelter in our umbrella chests.

I am terrified of you.

We film how our home perspires,
and when we listen closer her breath’s song is frantic.
There you go inhaling and stealing, and
there we go, paving your way.
Until the sea is no more than a stormwater drain
for our consumerism.
Until the land is left
an excavated body, wasted, emptied,
hollowed as if the bones of nature’s aircraft.
Like a pandemic supermarket shelf,
Mother Earth we are


Isabelle Lloydd
Year 12
St Mary’s College, Auckland

Onions – Lavenitani Mischah Taufa

By | 2023 runner up | No Comments


At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are given nicknames. I find myself constantly saying the whiteified version of my name because my palagi teacher in year 1 that could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious decided that Lavenitani Taufa was “a bit of a tongue twister”.

My beautiful name translates to Lavender. Like a Valensole field, my name, my identity is trampled on by foreigners. We are flowers. The brown flowers that are handpicked and hidden behind the white lilies and white daisies. Turned into wallflowers, we’re only being shown when you need more diversity. The submissiveness and obedience that is ingrained into us Polynesian kids is used against us, we are used until we turn rotten, until we lose our angelic voices, until we can no longer play in the 1 XV.

At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are tested on our ability to read and write. They don’t know that we know the language better than the palagi boys and palagi girls themselves because our own native tongues were stolen.

At the school that our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are told “domestic violence isn’t okay” and “if someone touches you in a nonconsensual way you should speak up”, but our dads say, “whatever happens in the family, stays in the family”. It is a shame for us to not trust in our parent’s teachings, but why should we trust in the system which highlights our downfalls and don’t even want to acknowledge our achievements? We laugh and discuss with our fellow pasifika students how and why we received the bruises that wrap around our thighs like a malu.

At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, the subtle racist comments and actions that they make are woven into our minds like a homemade konga fala, choking our own opinions and thoughts until we are the perfect exemplar as to why the statistics are the way they are.

At the school our parents picked a million onions to put us in, we are told to do 6 assignments at once. Yet at home our little siblings rely on us, we are taught to cook, to clean, make sure they learn their ABCs and at the same time do your own studies. While my father is out drinking kava and my mother goes to her second job, I am the mother and father to my siblings.

It’s hard to be a confident woman of colour when society shoves the white man’s standards in my face. It’s hard to be a confident woman of colour when the people closest to me are brainwashed, that we will always be second place, that white is right, that you should always back away from a fight or you’ll be labelled a parasite.

They claim to know our story, but who authorised these authors? it’s not until now that I felt compelled to flip the script, to remind you of what was stripped. Of what you missed in the story you say is mine. Cos like my brother said, my name is Lavenitani not criminal. I won’t let your actions, your talk, and your failure to know what I am capable of, affect me. And like my sister said, I am a daughter of the Pacific. Layer by layer, you pull off my peoples onion peels, and every layer stings worse but you will never see me cry. Cos at the school my parents picked a million onions to put me in, I refuse to let your ignorance be the reason I die.


Lavenitani Mischah Taufa
Year 12
Aorere College, Auckland

gloom/bloom – Sunny Radzyner

By | 2023 runner up | No Comments


on tuesday
the concrete median strip
was in bloom

bright wildflowers
vivid against
dry grass and
grey lamp posts

dangling heads
from the deadly
chill of winter

all the cars
the ford rangers
and toyota corollas
emitting their toxins,
engines snarling,
in pursuit

they snuff out
the radiancy,
vibrancy, of
blues and
purples, pinks
and reds

a californian hill
in june, a wilted
lily awash with water,
an oil drowned
penguin rescued
from the beach

the road
was alive

but this was linwood,
there were no
influencers or
frolicking in
floral goodwill

just the commuters
and me, here
to witness
the super bloom


Sunny Radzyner
Year 13
Avonside Girls’ High School, Christchurch

My Tears Stream Down The Uretara – Layla Hoskin

By | 2023 runner up | No Comments

My Tears Stream
Down The Uretara

I am pulled,
To the gravelled path.

Back into nature.

The twine
Tying me to the mountains,
The rivers,
The wetlands.

My iris an opulent frame
Capturing the mist
That connects pine
With kāuri,
Endemic and introduced
Holding equal beauty.

I restrain myself from diving in,
Burying deep into the viscous mud
So that toetoe may burst
From my frame.

I wish to be one with nature,
My whakapapa,
For a part of me is missing
Above the surface.

The part that smiles
As rivers run,
Overjoyed at harmony
Between earth and
Sea, awestruck by the
Duck that preens.

As my body decomposes
Swallowed by the earth,
Papatūānuku cradles me to sleep.

Until my voice
Is that which
Echoes through the
Beak of the kōtuku,

Until my milky skin
Replaces the clouds,
Until my gangly limbs
Protrude from the flax bush,

Until the gunk
From the corner of my eye
Between coprosma twigs
Hosting hundreds of spider eggs
That will contain
My resilience,

Until my body
Is reunited
With my tūpuna,

Until my tears stream down
The Uretara.


Layla Hoskin
Year 12
Tauranga Girls’ College

When i heard my father died – Jonah Cropp

By | 2023 runner up | No Comments

When i heard my father died,

My breath ——————–ceased
——————–to exist,
my body ————————froze
——————–like a cold iron door,
my lips ——-refusing
—-to move,
————unable ————————–to mutter words
that could have ————-some sense.

Thinking back ——————–to those
————younger days,
him and I ————playing catch
——in the yard,
I threw —————————–the ball
————further then ————he thought,
causing him ——————–to fall.
—————————————————-When I looked at his face
it was as white
——————–as he was in that coffin.

He stood up ————bearing a resemblance
————to an old stone statue,
his face,
contorted with pain, ————he looked up at me and said,
——————–“Nice throw mate.”
I always wondered
———how he could be ——————–that strong,
——————–I wish I could be as strong as him.


Jonah Cropp
Year 13
St Andrew’s College, Christchurch

Sunny Side – Molly Laurence

By | 2023 runner up | One Comment

Sunny Side

it’s going to be the sunny side
from now / bright lights of dawn
7 kilometres / up a hill
the sunny side like my eggs / smiling back up
at me from my avocado
sourdough / homemade
because you start your day well
in the sunny side

from this point on it will be
daily affirmations / yellow sticky notes on the edge
of the bathroom mirror / lip oil
and subtle shimmer / it will be thriving
pot plants and photosynthesis

next time i get out of bed
it will be in one / smooth / motion

in the sunny side
my mind / will be as clear as my pantry shelves / nothing
rotting under the fridge lights’ glow but
even if there was / i’d be okay

and maybe / in the sunny side / we’ll be
amicably friends and I intentionally
single / and we will meet / every so often
for brunch at that / new place down the road

i will order myself a smoothie bowl
mango / banana / golden beets / rainbow chard
hemp hearts / my heart / a shot
of ginger / for that luminous glow you possess
in the sunny side

in the sunny side my new home
will be in an apartment block / near the top
big windows and square metres / closest to the light
i will rescue a retriever and name him apollo /
i will possess
a fish named sylvia / in a tank
at the end of the bath

i think
i might buy myself some sunscreen
for yoga in the park / when the light travels through
the dawn-rising / city-smog to glint off
the office high rise windows
and splint / er over the road
/ and the grass /
and the few dog-pissed / scrub-shrubs / to me
6 metres away from the only tree / because the shade
can’t touch me now
i will be downward-dogging and namaste-exhaling /
the waistband of my lululemons squeezing tighter /
and tighter and / tight / with every breath /
my eyes will / squint in the light /
that in the sunny side / will blind me


Molly Laurence
Year 12
Lincoln High School, Christchurch

I see her in corners – Andrew Castles

By | 2023 runner up | One Comment

I see her in corners.

I see her in corners,
a wild thing stuffed and stretched into human form
a child in well-loved but ill-fitting garments.
nail-biting, snot-faced, bloody-kneed, tangle-haired.
She crouches under my desk and gnaws on the ends of M.I.A pencils
snaps warningly at my fingers with a splintery grin whenever I attempt a rescue mission.

I see her in the kitchen,
thin, disjointed limbs bickering and scrabbling for control
words and fists like forks shrieking on ceramics.
white-knuckled, silver-scarred, hot-headed, red-faced.
Eyes and ego rubbed raw she crawls under my covers icy toed and rough heeled
clawing at my stomach and breathing hot, damp air on the knobbly bone of my spine.

Only I can see her
when she stands proudly on the mantelpiece, a ship’s captain
small face playfully stern as she commandeers the crashing waves.
Is it cold in here? My brother asks
and shivers as he stands in the middle of her wooden ship.

I see her in doorways,
a ragged mongrel with hungry heart and hands
ill-trained to wait, to sit and watch for a morsel to fall.
sulky-eyed, pinch-mouthed, sullen-faced, skin-starved.
Mum holds me close and over a perfumed shoulder I spot her, fists by her sides
shoulders painfully straight and blank, black shark eyes boring a hole through me.

I see her in swimming pools,
a twisted pale creature curling in the current
aiming rude, water blurred gestures at the lifeguard.
fidget-fingered, freckle-legged, furrow-browed, water-logged.
She trails pruney fingertips along the calves of overhead swimmers and laughs
curling sharp knees into a red bikini top, distorting the sun-bleached fabric.

I see her in shop windows and cracked black phone screens, chrome-coloured car doors and
the dirty disabled bathroom mirror. Her in the swirling wood grain in the banisters and her in
the scratchy, pink-penned initials cowering under the coffee table. I see her in dusty
fingerprints, in bus stop signs and ticking clocks, in pools and corners and doorways and
kitchens and everywhere.

I see her everywhere.

I don’t see her in graves
not lying unmoving like a broken doll in a chocolate-box coffin
dull glass eyes and painted lips forever buried next to cat bones in the yard.
not-dead, not-buried, un-mourned, her.
She grips me like rigor mortis, red hot lines on the back of my hand saying remember
and so,
I do.

Andrew Castles
Year 13
St Andrew’s College, Christchurch

The New Year – Charles Ross

By | 2023 runner up | No Comments

The New Year

A pull,
to the very end of the beach’s curve,
to the rock tipped great wide wingspan,
the finish of the pale stretch of sand.
We set out
the line gripped in my hand
drawn by the promise
of the capture of a meal.

I untangle my line
along with my thoughts
it’s a chase
it’s a wait
then it’s a pull pull pull
evasive, slick, slippery but
it carries the dark
of the ocean on its skin
but I’m probably imagining the depths
in its eyes.
A body heavy as rain.
I stick my knife into its gills
one more jerk then it stills,
its body and a feeling of
guilt both settling
under my hands.

My needs are
simple I think I
should stick to that
more often.
Back at the hut
scales come off easy, and pile up
fresh white flesh spits back from the
pan, well-fed smiles in the dark
there is no other way
I would rather have seen in the new year.


Charles Ross
Year 12
Logan Park High School, Dunedin