By Beatrix Kim
10th grade, The Pennington School, NJ
3rd place contest winner

With lines from "Purgatory at Sea" by Ian Urbina, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

long have i held the notion
that if such a thing as
god exists,
then he has left us,
then this is purgatory,
then we float in the sea,
bellies swollen after
swallowing razor blades
and shampoo
and other chemicals
because god has
abandoned us
here and it
is better to take
matters into your own
hands. this is purgatory,
this is refoulement.

it looks like three
six bars, a dozen or
so shops, a casino, a
movie theater, a night-
club, and a chapel.
shiny, sprawling, and inward-
facing, where we
await the arbiters
who weigh the
value of our lives, and while
we wait we clasp together
our hands and start to
sing, sing a song
among the saddest
that this god knew.
this is refoulement.

a farewell song, in three
parts, we sing:
if such a thing as god exists,
then he has cast us
aside, then this
is a funeral procession,
the death of us all.
we sing:
my friend—the land,
finally. for if such a
thing as god exists,
then he has blinded us,
our arbiters; then he
has made fool of us
all, laughing
as we sing for a
land worse than purgatory.
we do not know. how could
we? unyielding,
this is refoulement.

Beatrix Kim is a rising junior at The Pennington School in New Jersey. She loves to write poetry and create in whatever free time she has. She is a big literature nerd and comes from a house of poets. Beatrix is grateful for the opportunity the Pulitzer Center has given her in approaching topics as complex and real as they are from around the world.

Read more winning entries from the 2021 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.