First Prize Fire Escape Poetry Contest 2010

I'm delighted to present the first prize winner in the Fire Escape's Eighth Annual Poetry Contest for teens between cultures.

CITY IN THE EAST AND CITY IN THE WEST was written by Mirette, who was born in Egypt. "The hardest thing about balancing two cultures is trying to be loyal to both of them simultaneously," she says. "It's hard to follow the traditions of two different cultures as they sometimes contradict each other. The best thing about being an immigrant is definitely the food--nothing beats Middle Eastern cuisine, and I'm glad I can still enjoy it even though I live in America."

City in the East and City in the West

Intolerance, boils under the crimson sun
Captivity, in the hearts of many
A lion's body with a woman's head sits boldly on hot, desert sand
what torture in the sting of a whip
to create such a monument

if you look left
a man wearing a linen gown and turban
becomes one with his doumbek drum
as he smokes tobacco from his hookah

if you look right
an oriental building bursts with the clacking of finger cymbals
elegant sounds and swaying hips
belly dancers in Cairo

if you look down
the stars are buried beneath the mysterious Nile
and the sand whispers ancient stories of
buried cities and buried kings
beneath your sandals

journey on an airplane across the sparkling seas...

Liberty, engraved in the pavements
Freedom, on the tongues of men
A beautiful lady's arm tires from holding a torch
what thoughtful ideas in the minds of the French
to create such a monument

if you look left
a man wearing a designer suit
cannot part from his iphone and ipod
as a little orange ember rests between his two fingers

if you look right
an expensive building explodes with sound and people
heavy beats and fancy lights
nightlife in New York City

if you look down
the stars cannot be seen on the cold asphalt
but the well-paved streets tell stories of
founding fathers and American pride
beneath your sneakers

and if you look up
the sky that carried me here
is the same in the east and in the west
as two cultures struggle to converge
into something harmonious and beautiful

Thank you, Mirette, for this beautiful poem! Please leave comments for the poet below, and you may enjoy past poetry winners here

Photo courtesy of Bracketing Life via Creative Commons.