By Ava Heydarian 
11th grade, Walter Johnson High School, MD
Honorable mention

With lines from "The Story of Al-Eizariya: Jerusalem's Town Forgotten Behind the Wall" by Laila Shadid, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

“Where are you right now?”

He asked,
Standing on the known side
Not the side
Marked by a fatigue
That lingers in the air
And a longing
For those who live two blocks away

He asked,
Not standing on the side
Where children debate
Whether the cloud
Just to the right
Of the midmorning sun
Is shaped like an elephant
Or a bear
So that they can master
The priceless art of escapism

He asked,
Not standing on the side
Where young ones
Graffiti their resolve
On drab concrete slabs
Where they plant their feet
Into the ground
Like roots, like defiance
Because they know
That soon
Everything will be magic

“Where are you right now?”

Ava Heydarian is a rising senior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, MD. She is involved in her school's literary and arts magazine, which has fostered her love of writing. As an Iranian-American of Kurdish descent, she hopes that her writing can shine a light on issues Middle Eastern communities face. She is very grateful for the Pulitzer Center’s recognition.

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