C.B. West Junior Named Bucks County High School Poet of the Year

Thursday, April 28, 2022 at 2:01 PM

Lauren Burchell
Last updated: Monday, May 2, 2022 at 8:28 PM

Lauren Burchell, who rose to the top of more than 100 entries, will read from his works Saturday, May 14th from 1-3pm in the Orangery on BCCC's Newtown Campus.

Lauren Burchell, a junior at Central Bucks High School West, has been named the 2022 Bucks County High School Poet of the Year, officials at Bucks County Community College announced. Burchell rose to the top of more than 100 entries in the 35rd annual contest, part of the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program administered by the college.

For the first-place finish, Burchell wins $300 and will be honored with a poetry reading on Saturday, May 14, from 1-3 pm in the Orangery on BCCC's Newtown Campus. The event will feature winners, finalists, and judges. The three poems Burchell submitted for the contest were entitled “One Fish, Two Fish, Girl Fish, Boy Fish,” “Secondary Succession,” and “An Ode to Selene.” The judges were Nicole Steinberg (the current Bucks County Poet Laureate) and Jane Edna Mohler (last year's BCPL). 

In addition to the winner, the judges also named Rhianna Searle, a junior at the George School, as first runner-up. Second runner-up was junior Mira Kaufman from Council Rock High School North. Third runner-up was Pearl Smith, also a junior, from Neshaminy High School. 

The three runners-up will also read from their works during the celebration. 

The annual Bucks County High School Poet of the Year contest is another way that Bucks County Community College contributes to the cultural heritage of the region. To learn more, visit

For more information contact Dr. Ethel Rackin, a Professor of Language and Literature at Bucks and the director of the Wordsmiths Reading Series and Poet Laureate Program.

Lauren Burchell’s winning poems:


One Fish, Two Fish, Girl Fish, Boy Fish


I. One Fish

Sometimes I wish I’d cut off my hair by my own hand,

stuck the soil-colored strands into a used plastic grocery bag

(reducing, reusing, recycling)

Threw it into a river, let the evidence float away on a current

Maybe the bag will become some

unfortunate fish’s last supper

But dear God, at least I’d be alive


If all I have to do to survive is secondhandedly strangle

a fish, then I’d gladly take on the title of killer

I’ve already murdered my past self:

she’s at the bottom of a murky lake now


(I haven’t been to a lake in years)


II. Two Fish

My mother had three children, braided her iron spirit into our hair

When we were just ripening, she’d take us

everywhere, anywhere, just to get out of the house

(apples never straying far from the tree)


One of our most frequented places

was a paradise of a koi pond hidden

inside a health center or hospital or…

(I wasn’t particular about that sort of thing a decade ago)


But we each chose our favorite fish, tried to find them every time

My mother’s pointing finger led our eyes to them

My favorite was an inseparable pair; their markings burning softly

through the dappled surface of the water


I rarely needed my mother’s murmurs to identify them,

for their uniqueness was what I wished to copy,

something to make me stand out from my sisters

(I didn’t know then I would grow up

to look nothing like them)


But lifespans become cramped within the confines of the indoors

And as a shadow fell over the pond, I could not find my pair of fish

I was inconsolable on the inside; the only crack in my façade

was a tremble of my lips and a stone in my throat


Within a few seconds, my mother pointed out two beautiful fish,

claiming that they were my favorites, child

Did she craft her lie to ease the trouble on my face, or

had she never paid enough attention to know the difference?


That was the first lie she told me that I did not believe

The first lie that fell apart like a sandcastle

built too close to the tide’s reaching fingers


III. Girl Fish

There are plenty of fish in the sea

but how many girl fish are there?

How many girl fish are there that like other girl fish

that might be boy fish?


I cast my line, wait for eternity, reel it in,

feel my skin burn and peel under the yellow smudge of the sun

Empty-handed, I change my bait, becoming desperate

I cut off my fingers one by one, hoping they like my ring finger best

Impale the digit with the hook, then cast my line again


Perhaps if I tempt them with the right part of my flesh they will bite

But girl fish only steal my bait for themselves

I offer these slices of skin just to be robbed

Never learning, always hoping the outcome might change


Girl fish slip out of your hands before you can get a grip

Swimming upstream as you are swept into the rushing tide

Never yours to treasure, to admire

Though they’ll take whatever skin you offer up


IV. Boy Fish

I observe boys like they are rare fish

and I am the most dedicated ichthyologist

in the last aquarium left standing


I watch the way they arrange their legs when they sit at desks

(only crossed if at the ankle,

or wide open,

or with an ankle on an opposing knee)

And how they position their hands when they’re talking

(shoved deep into pockets,

or clasped at one wrist,

or all over me)

And how their clothes tumble down their torsos

(flatly across their chest to their stomach)


And yet I’m the one encased in hollow glass

Strangers staring at me like I’m going extinct

The water is pooling around my knees,

enticing me to sink like a stone

I am the freak show, I am the exhibit

and my captor is my body



Secondary Succession


(n.) when organisms return to living in an area that was destroyed

by events like floods, wildfires, or breakups


If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it,

is it even on fire? Are its veiny leaves

slowly curling into char? Are its twisting branches

cracking off, adding fuel to the fire,

the most vicious of cycles?


If you’re not around to call me beautiful,

am I still a vessel of beauty?

Or is it only someone else’s eyes that can

create my allure? Because my toothpaste-spattered bathroom mirror

plays tricks on me so often

So was the only thing that made me handsome

your lovely, lying lips?

But now, you have left me without the heat of them


So maybe I’m on fire, maybe I’m not

Maybe you’re a liar, maybe I am

You witnessed when I fell in love with you; I heard it

            when you fell out of love with me:

the melody of a heartbeat slowly steadying; then flatlining

            altogether as you rip the cuff off


I hope I didn’t cut off your blood flow, darling

Look: my knuckles are red, too,

I held on so tightly to your fire that the pain was all-consuming

            until it was just burning me raw

I tried to cup you in my palms like you were cool water

            but my hands were imperfectly made, see,

You slipped out of my grasp like an oil spill

            while my heart was doused in acetone




An Ode to Selene


My sister and I, we watched the moon rise

Marveling at how quickly it leapt above the horizon

I said it was orange, she argued for yellow

but the honey shade dripped on, oblivious to our squabbling


Our neighbors wandered by us, peeking curiously

at two kids crouched in a ditch, eyes fixed on the heavens

They couldn’t find the cloudy marble rolling around in the sky

until our murmured directions guided their gaze


My father meandered down the street with an amber bottle

swinging, pendulum-like in his loose grasp,

his eyes unfocused and his embrace warm

The moon above commanded silence, a quiet awe

broken not even by the croak of frogs or hum of insects


For nature gives the moon the stage when she is full and golden,

a handful of minutes in a pair of fortnights

Until she breaks above the tree line, snapping us out of our trance,

and all fall back into our lives





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