MSJ Student Wins Poetry Contest

By: Ishan Goyal

On March 8, MSJ sophomore Palak Goel won first place in the 14th Annual Courage to Create Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. Palak’s journey began when English teacher Katherine Geers assigned a holocaust project. Students were tasked with finding a moving testimony of a Holocaust survivor by exploring the 1939 Club and the USC Shoah Foundation websites, two reputable archives of Holocaust survivor journals. After the students had completed and presented their projects, the class chose its favorite works to proceed to the next round of judging. English teachers Jennifer Moore and John Boegman hosted the same competition and had their students select the best poems. Out of this elite tier, Palak’s poem was among the few chosen to represent the school in the contest. Geers was elated when she received news that Palak’s poem had advanced to the finalist round and that he was being invited to Orange County to present it to a panel of judges.

Reflecting back on Palak’s work, Geers said “I found his poem uniquely inspiring in that its message came from the heart and its ambiguity made its appeal ubiquitous.” Palak found the experience thrilling and said “I didn’t think my poem would go such a long way in the contest and I’m happy that the work and emotion I put into it could be heard by the judges.” Palak and the other winners will be given the opportunity to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and other sites in Washington D.C. later this June.

Palak’s Poem:

The dark wind screams;
The trains newly full.
Forgotten are long-cherished dreams,
Their silent, deadly pull.
And it’s too cold to hear my cry,
But I still whisper, “Who am I?”

I see the sun,
But there is no light.
The work is done,
But only for tonight.
Children whimper; their throats too dry.
But I know what they ask: “Who am I?”

I don’t notice the fear;
I don’t notice the flame.
I look to the skies and pray God is near,
But nothing is the same.
Sometimes I stop and wonder why
I have forgotten: “Who am I?”

Victory, they whisper, is still in sight.
Outside the fence, soldiers clash by night.
Sometimes I wake, gasping with fright,
I wonder which army is dark and which is light.
When I hear the screams I think it’s better to die,
Because I still can’t be sure, “Who am I?”

One day the fence will be gone
And our angels will pour inside.
I long for this silent new dawn.
Will I laugh, and forget I cried?
Or will, perhaps, my soul learn to fly?
Will I ever stop asking myself: “Who am I?”

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