Second Place – 2024 Beverly Hopkins Contest for High School Students

“Its final lines end high on the edge of a cliff overlooking a river, but the poem’s speaker tries to make peace with a place that’s low and heart-heavy. This poem not only maturely explores the ebbs and flows of a relationship, it is a beautiful example of how simple, important moments can take shape through precise and unexpected description.”

Elijah Burrell, 2024 Hopkins Contest Judge

Taper Off

Ladue Horton Watkins High School

A certain end-of-summer bliss.
A late afternoon smile; cooked and covered.
I was greener-eyed than ever,
and your asymmetrical smile,
and your low-lidded shake of the head,
and your oceans of thought:
purple-orange nights spent
wondering and wandering
across moon-baked asphalt.
Chess games in ice cream parlors
15 minutes before closing.
I couldn’t win a game
against your complicated openings;
high heights and higher standards.
I remember now:
we were up on a cliff
looking over the river,
when the first leaves of autumn
finally fell.
Our silent heat warmed your fingers
slowly, boiling around us.
The sun: hidden.
Our summer: over.
Just as all fires flicker out
and all summers give way to fall,
I was always meant to stand alone
with my fall
and without your summer.