Claudia Ann Seaman Award
Sharon, Massachusetts, USA
Sharon High School
Once the sun bows down, we start killing
time. Lazily at first, then urgent, as if we know
we are stillborn, still birthing, always falling short
of a massacre. When I say, Tell me the meaning
of citizenship, I know you keep a dictionary
beneath your pillow, navigate English
by the withering of it from your tongue. My words
do not dry with so much blood-
lessness. I scooped my vowels out,
called it a lesson in speech therapy:
the ease of my language becoming
a weapon. Here, I will find my own
nation. I will mangle border upon border
on my skin: skirmish, body, war.
We are always failing at our peace. The storm
learns our violence, weeping tell me
how you got your scars. We say,
a man holds a woman
like a gun. The moon turns a blind eye:
at night, everything is urgent. I mourn
our boundaries. I did not coax my language into
war just to lose
my image in your speech. We are no longer fledgling:
there are your sounds, and there are mine. Sovereign,
even if we do not want to admit how to accept
defeat. The color of the dawn waxes
against my teeth. It gushes, fertile. I am still my own
nation, newborn, now bearing a gun. Lazily
at first, then arid, hostile. Tell me, you wanted this,
and with want, there will always be blood.
In “Naturalization Test,” the process of citizenship is visceral, violent. Through captivatingly lyrical language, the author seamlessly intertwines razor-sharp images — guns, blood, war — with the pain of loss, a giving over of one’s language. The poem weaves an aching portrait of searching for identity in a nation undone and wracked with contrasts.
Editorial Praise from Tara Betts, Poetry Judge:
In "Naturalization Test," the speaker struggles with the violence of learning another language. The pacing of these couplets takes its time and arrives at a declaration of bloodletting as it concludes, even though the speaker is miraculously still intact. This poem can speak to a lot of people about what it means to be and become American.
Dana Blatte is a high school student from Massachusetts. Her work is published in Fractured Lit, The Shore, Peach Magazine, and more. She is a 2021 student in The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship, the Iowa Young Writers' Workshop, and Alpha, The Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Workshop for Young Writers. Besides writing, she loves linguistics, bedroom pop, and honey almond butter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR