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After Chasing Winged Dreams

Winter Contest Winner

CAS for Database

Alexander Lee

Incheon, South Korea

Chadwick International School


After Chasing Winged Dreams

The engine growled to a stop

& you wake up. Nailed to two trees,

the gate stood like a sentinel forced

to watch over forgotten paths.

Pa’s heavy arms propelled him

off his seat. He padded around the gate

in three small steps, reaching down

to unlatch the hook. With a short heave

the gate swung open, clanging to a stop.

You’d ask Ma when you were little, Why

do we lock the gate if you can

just walk around it? To that, she would

smile and nod, like she knew

something you didn’t.

The grass bristled, alive

with katydids. The car stumbled

into the plain; the insects jumped

to your eye-level, crash landing on the roof—

lining the windows, the front plates. Even before

the car’s final wheeze, Pa and Ma whisked

into the peeled-paint house, immaculate

checklists scrolling through their minds.

Alone, you were left to wander. You

chased after katydids, wielding

two wooden sticks you’d carefully selected

for their grip and reach, sometimes twirling

as you ran, as they swung. In your mind

memories waited like razor clams above

the receding tide. Until they returned

to retrace your forgotten dreams with you. Still

you mowed through the field each summer. With each step

katydids exploded—fireworks beneath your feet, always

flinching as Ma called you, after you rounded

the corner, re-entering her sight line, shrinking away

from the husk of the honeybee hive. Only two years ago

you’d been faint-hearted as they whistled past.

You weren’t much bigger now, but you swore

you’d outgrown the constellation of little frights

seething across your skin, seething across your past.

Now, as you shrink toward the house, Ma seasons

the bustling kitchen until you burst in, breathless

& begging for ice-cold lemonade. As you sat sipping

its chilled sweetness, Ma’s hands fluttered

rapid-fire with gestures: Look at this!

Oh, you’ll love it! Just try it on! Beneath

the hand-me-downs, you gasped for air

until you shot through

each head-hole—denim jackets, plain

hoodies, knitted sweaters.You merry-

go-rounded in fabric, posing as Ma took

mental pictures. Next. Next. Next.

As you slipped into another, a faint buzz

stirred in your mind. Already, you’re outside—

outside running, jumping, summer exploding

amidst the katydids. But really, you’re clutching

the whispers of childhood slipping away, fast

as the shadows at the pulsating break of day.


This piece was packed full of intense imagery, wistful nostalgia, and thoughtful word choice. In particular, I appreciated all the moments of alliteration throughout [this] piece. From bigger sections like “bustling kitchen until you burst in, breathless / & begging for ice-cold lemonade” with the “b” sound to smaller moments like “husk of the honey-bee hive,” these [examples of alliteration] all added to the story-telling aspect of [the] poem by [engaging] the reader through sound and language.


Alex Lee is a high school student in South Korea. He has previously attended the Emerson Pre-college Creative Writers Workshop. His work has been published in the South Carolina Review. When not reading or writing, he enjoys composing BGM to animation videos, surfing at Siheung Wave Park, and daydreaming while rain dribbles down the window.

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