The Writer's Den

UCLA's creative writing student group

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“What Can You Pen?” Poetry Honorable Mention

by Luke Moran

A rain of pool water smothers the grass
as the adults gather around umbrella­tents
to gulp down cocktails.

My foot is still cramped
from letting it linger on the metal ladder too long.
I gaze down at the growing mix of chlorine and chlorophyll
that settles in the lawn.

They want me to meet them on the other side,
the birthday boy and company, half with hair stained green
from too much exposure.

They’re starting pool games soon:
Dylan with his goggles askew,
and Alice says “Why not?”
and me, still clinging to the wall.

(I don’t answer, but rather
keep hold of the mental tether
that stops me from floating off into the deep end.)

Still, we’re all aquaphiles in a sense,
whether it’s want or need that guides us.
(A cocktail­mix of friends,
some risk of suffocation.)
A rush of fluid up the nose.

I sigh, and
involuntarily inhale
the essence of all being.

In this shelter of sociability,
dazed and invaded we learn
to love and fear
what we mostly are.

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“What Can You Pen?” Second Place Poetry Prize

by Anna Chen

I am here with unwatered time
anxious leisure, pleasure meter
seizure of dreams in a green
bottle I got from the corner shop

Each day each dream
it seems the seams are ripping in my heart
in camouflage I played my part
and again I’m here
at delirium’s feet

Kissing through the window pane
it’s you and I— oh my insane
mind! How you’ve trapped me
now at half past adolescence
And here
in the crevices
of my memory
the machine gun’s laughing
the ratta-ta-ta
like hail
on the rain-proof
tin roof
where they serve
freeze-dried foods
to the pride of the nation
with silverware and artillery and
eternal damnation

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First place winners will be published in Westwind‘s quarterly journal. 

by Jacob Jarecki 

Wine ought to do the trick
Easing the nerves
With a swallow of shame

And yet a

Whine knots my stomach
Flowing ablaze
From my mouth open taut

No way a

Wide nut on a starving screw
Can make amends
Fastening so improbable

Nor can a

White note put an end
To your misery
Caused by my soul

And so

Why not steal another heart
In the dark pitch
To put on the cutting board


Why not trick adoring eyes
Beget to forget
The pain I no longer feel


Why not?


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“What Can You Pen” Second Place Prose Prize

Why Not College?
By Michael Gaulden

I wrestled with the Mexican boy. I had him in a headlock and continued punching him in the face. He swung madly, occasionally grazing my head. I looked up to see another approaching and tossed him loose to defend myself from his comrade’s attack. I ducked under the oncoming punch and countered with my own striking the boy in his nose.  Blood trickled down it as he stumbled back and two more of his friends lunged for me as the original boy I was fighting fled.  We were out numbered, there was about thirty of them and ten of us. It was after school and a mob of teenagers mobbed down the street towards the Park Blvd trolley platform. Racial tensions between Blacks and Mexicans had been high lately. There had already been three riots that month, this was the fourth, and my second. I’ve always been colorblind, friends to everyone, which was why I was warned at P.E. by some acquaintances of mine, in particular my friend Saul. He was from a Mexican gang. He told me it was going to “go down” after school because some of the “blacks” have been tripping. He said he know I have to side with my friends so stay on the right side of the area and they’ll make sure to attack from the left. I appreciated that from him.

The concrete landscape raged with chaos like an epic greek battlefield. Everyone was mad at each other but no one knew why, except that they were supposed to be. The Vulcans cried as they approached from above waiting to feast off of the fallen. Except this was the inner city and there are no vultures, those were helicopters.

One of the boys swung at me as the other lunged for my legs. Another hit me from behind and I fell. I writhed to get my arms and legs in the fetal position covering my face as they started kicking me.  Continue reading

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“What Can You Pen?” First Place Prose Prize

First place winners will be published in Westwind‘s quarterly journal. 

The Airman
By Hannah Hogen 

There was one time in middle school where the teacher gave us all this research assignment. He wanted us to do a write-up on a part of San Cielo that we found particularly fascinating. We could pick our own topic within reason, and prepare a two to three minute presentation that would include why we chose it and why the place we picked was an important part of the city.

I wrote about the little public park on Seventeenth and Harborview that was right down the street from the tiny apartment me and my mother had just moved to. She took me down there to explore while she helped the parks commission paint the graffiti from the walls and play places. The full name of the park was something like “Parque de la gente de mi tierra,” but she and I and everyone else I knew just shortened it to “Parque Gente.” There were these big sculptures there made out of greening metal that dotted the park, bending under the trees and saluting the sky beneath the more open areas. I used a big green poster board for my presentation, splashed with crudely drawn pictures of plants and trees and plastered with pictures printed on lined paper. I got an A- and my mother was very proud of me. Three years ago they tore down Parque Gente to make room for a bigger parking lot to feed the new promenade over on Sixteenth. Continue reading

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Day 16

The Prompt: Find a friend. Decide together exactly what kind of poem you are both going to write, from the subject matter, to the form, to any details you think are relevant. Then, write your poems separately. Share. Marvel at how original you can be even with the same idea and parameters.