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School Year’s 11-13 Category Runner up Stay Behind Cave by Hannah Koessler

Hug your family tight,
as tightly as the room will enclose you;
you might never make it out.
The pride that you felt when being selected,
the pride that made your heart pound proudly,
the pride that made your fingers tingle with anticipation, has long faded out.
Six of you will go in,
But how many of you will come out?
They say the supplies will last a year,
they say the war will be over then.
You can only nod, you can only agree with them.
It is not your place to speak, to question,
even as a little voice in your head asks,
What if it's not over?
What if the supplies run out?
What if I suffocate?
Walls closing in tightly around me;
will I ever be found?
The "Stay Behind Cave", they call it,
It is an honour they say,
and honoured you are.
But the fear slowly creeps in,
as you hold your family in that final embrace.

Judge Charlie Durante’s comments:

“Post-apocalyptic scenarios are becoming more and more plausible as climate change, a renewal of the arms race and the antagonism of the super powers ratchet up and bring us ever nearer to an all-consuming Armageddon. Stay Behind Cave can envisage such a world, in the throes of armed conflict where some have been selected to survive. The poem concentrates on the understandable worries that plague those who find themselves in the ‘stay behind cave.’ They are temporarily safe, but ‘walls (are) closing in tightly,’ a feeling of asphyxia, of claustrophobia is taking its toll. There is no guarantee of emerging unscathed from the cave experience. They can only find consolation in the final embrace of their family.
This piece conveys a simple but pointed warning, the uncertainty and threat we all live under. It is a modern version of the sword of Damocles!”

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