Two Scholastic Gold Key poems by Kieri Keys ’24

“Ambidextrous” and “Permanent Marker,” two poems by sophomore Kieri Keys, recently won regional Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key Awards. Congratulations, Kieri!


I believe in God, but I don’t believe his people.
Why should I?
They tell me that I’m wrong, that they know better.
How easily corrupted, how conversationally cruel.
I left the church with dignity, 
They stayed looking like fools.

I believe in God, but I don’t believe in destiny.
It’s a soothing thought at first,
But when it hit I felt like nothing.
If my fate is predetermined, what happens to motivation?
Eve was made to be the villain,
Conflict written from creation. 

I believe in God, but I don’t believe the book.
Our world did not exist when the leather back was bound.
Wrong is not so black or white, sin is cascading cataracts of color.
I will not project onto the Bible;
Objectively it’s hypocritical,
Subjectively, it's vital.

I believe in God, but I don’t believe in religion.
Lists of rules and regulations but for whose amusement?
I was born into this faith, but would I choose it if I could?
Never the question of “Do you want to?”
Only the matter of “You should.”

I don't believe that I belong here, but is it all just my opinion?
I want to fulfill my purpose, but my body is my demon’s minion.

I pray before every meal, eyes closed,
My mind is my moral’s mistress.
If the church cut off my hand, I would write with my left,
Be ambidextrous.
Permanent Marker

I’m scared to write on a blank piece of paper.
I’m terrified that every stroke of graphite is the same as permanent marker;
Scratching and bleeding into the fibers of the page.
Each shaky line or misspelled word is engraved into the surface of the white sheet,
And it remembers.

Paper remembers the words pressed into its skin.
Even if you erase it with rubber until your fingertips turn white-
Unseen, but never forgotten.

I remember the words I carved into my mind.
They resurface every time certain words get caught 
in the grooves of a letter.
Finite memory is no match for a message pressed with pencil a little too hard. 

‘Who I am’ is not a question I know how to answer.
It goes beyond the lines of this rectangle I was given to fill.
I have a brain with the capacity to think,
Parents with the instinct to provide,
A body with an ability to move-
Who am I waiting for might be a better question.
I have every opportunity, every colored pencil and art supply at my fingertips.
Glue and tape to build up my walls and scissors to tear into the very flesh and bone of my being.
Yet still, here I am.
Acting as if I’m not my own canvas to strike.

Acting, as if whatever I create is raw, is real. 
Acting, as if I haven’t been lied to about myself my entire life.
Acting, as if a single rip in my printer paper world wouldn’t expose me as the scared, featherless bird I see myself to be.

A big fish in a small pond- if you could call me even that.
An imposter of two suffering peoples that don’t need my identification.
An uncommitted dog-eared corner for a book you don’t even care to read.

Staring at this white emptiness all I see is it staring back at me. 

Why couldn’t I find the words to make it beautiful?
All I can imagine is a crumpled up ball
with creases and edges sharp and inerasable.

There are fingers that pull triggers,
That beat and bludgeon bad and good.
My fingers can’t even grasp a pencil
in the way my teachers think I should.

Constantly trembling hands contribute to
Nervous looking stanzas. 
The messy handwriting on this page
is the same I see with my eyes closed. 
These imprints and this graphite are related;
They’re both written in permanent marker.
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