By Brooke Deegan
9th grade, Pine-Richland High School, PA
Honorable mention

With lines from "Drawn to War: A Ukraine Journal” by George Butler, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

violent clouds looming above
ancient tarnished cobblestone streets 
threatening gray, brimful with dismay
of its presence, every one soul is aware
menacing suspense before a lethal storm
this isn’t yet a city at war

the marketplace has lost its breath
it shallowly gasps for stolen air
strangled by the grasp of apprehension
bustling still, but now with despair  
barbed wire surrounds this anxious chasm 
dug right between both life and death 
the marketplace lies and dies in wait
as once-silent sirens rise up to a roar
this isn’t yet a city at war

train stations filled, but devoid of hope
bloodshed now brewing, spreading so close
try to drown out the fear with beaten guitars
or mask it with tulips to heal frightened hearts
but the disquiet lingers, never fails, doesn’t falter
sun and moon cycles grow longer and longer
the dread strips each person straight down to their core
this isn’t yet a city at war

the town is pre-reminiscent of its future
dead before even truly attacked
its soul drained out days or ages ago
and replaced with rituals of waiting for pain
time’s torture is endless, its own kind of battle
but at least, on the field, you can try to fight
here anticipation pins you in your hopeless spot
and you cannot undo what has yet to be done
excruciating, for all you can do is watch
as it cuts you ‘til you cannot take any more
this isn’t yet a city at war
(this isn’t yet a city at war)

Brooke Deegan is a rising sophomore at Pine-Richland High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is an avid writer across several genres, including poetry, fiction, and journalism. She also loves songwriting, and enjoys singing, playing guitar, and performing. A firm believer in the power of words to bring people together and effect change, Brooke is honored to have been recognized by the Pulitzer Center and is immensely grateful for the opportunity to share her voice with the world.

Read more winning entries from the 2023 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.