By Heona Liu
8th grader, Bigelow Middle School, MA

With lines from “In Lebanon, Parents Abandoning Their Children in Orphanages" by Wendell Steavenson, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

The rich
Plummet to the poor,
Down down down
A sinking ship.
So those who have assisted
Are in need of assistance.

Oh Poverty, Oh Poverty,
Slowly slowly slowly
It devours.
Woe to those it has looked upon,
Playing its uno-reverse card. Toying the puppet strings of fate.
It corners its victims against a cliff—a dead end,
For we can only choose between bad and worse
And everything we possess slips through our fingers like sand.
It watches leisurely as everything we hold dear
Falls into the depths of the abyss.

Poverty—a lack of something,
Affiliate of the corrupt—
Silently, it skins the thread of life
Churn churn churn
Til it hangs by a hair.

Sacrifices have been offered,
Savings have been spent,
Valuables have been sold.
Dry and clean,
The charity of friends and family has been exhausted.
Blood, sweat and tears,
Drip drop drip drop
Gone—in a blink of an eye.
Exchanged, only to fortify your fortune
Until it comes back to haunt you. Again,
Demand grows exponentially,
Soon debt and loans join the party,
It's a marathon you can never win,
Battery that drains faster than you can charge it,
Hope so great, you can never reach.
A sun that takes a glimpse through
Black, stormy clouds
Soon to hide and rain its
Furious, turbulent, tempestuous downpour.
A friend who holds your hand,
Only to let you go halfway.
A rainbow amid the lifeless dreary sky,
So close, yet so far away.

Oh Poverty, a truly ruthless thing you are.
You show no remorse for your victims.
You are a barrier that divides
A mother and father from their child,
A vine that entangles
The pursuit of a career.
Why is it always the same excuse?
Money money money
Like hidden chains that pull you down,
A weed so silent
That it could be mistaken for the sound tranquility,
Spreading ever so far and wide.

Poverty—a bright sun, shoots its blinding rays
Unheeded, it blinds the eye of the common folk,
Hidden, lurking in broad daylight
Shh shh shh
Designing, crafting, scheming,
Its cunning, devious plans run infinite.
A sliver of misery—lingers,
A crisis— neglected,
A family—bites on their last portion of food
Another—battles cholera
And another—thrown onto the streets
A child—a young one—has been abandoned.
The roots of Poverty still stand,
Nonchalantly plaguing every new generation with its curse,
Subtly but surely
Dealing great damage in disguise
You haven’t even noticed.

Heona Liu is a rising ninth grader in Newton, Massachusetts. She finds joy in drawing, ballet, playing piano, and anything that involves the arts. Heona has personally experienced money issues and difficulty affording necessities within her family. She is honored to have this opportunity to share her poem in hopes that it will resonate and express the pains and struggles of those undergoing poverty. This poem is the first poem Heona has written for a poetry contest. She aspires to continue growing as a writer and implores others to speak out about their passions through the power of words.

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