Emptying My Grandfather's House
By Cameron Messinides
We leave the dumpster crouching
in the street, then haul armoires
outside and crack them open like eggs.
in brown December lawns
only because snow has missed Chicago
so far: a warmer winter than my father
has known since seven years-old.
Still, the marigolds
are dying, and hypothermia will keep
snakes from flaking through the basement
when he halts before a shelf
and a workbench light flies
across his peach-peel forearm, one hand
slack around a buzzing crowbar, the other
embracing a pistol’s muzzle,
my grandfather’s bronze
souvenir of the Pacific Theater.
I've learned to let my father stay
dangerous because perhaps unloading
a revolver is like stealing the pit
from a blanched avocado. Only the rhythm
of beating basement walls can stave away
his whooping cough on a night
like this, when the blue panels
on the neighbor’s house rattle
like dogs drunk on scotch, and blinking
in moonlight might overshadow
Details of an Epilogue
By Cameron Messinides
Nana’s joke: she looks
like a duck with her hair
fallen out. Pluck my feathers,
she says, and don’t
leave me alone just yet. My mother
wheelchairs her across this
bridge, granite and ageless and
is it supposed to buckle?
The ducks live
under the bridge. Nana
carries no bread, instead throws flowers,
which will wilt in three days,
A Camden teenager landed one of the most prestigious poetry awards in the country on Sept. 18 and visited the White House and met First Lady Michelle Obama as part of the honor.
Cameron Messinides, 17, a former Camden High School (CHS) student now attending the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, is a member of the 2014 class of National Student Poets. He became a national student poet after receiving the Leonard L. Milberg Poetry Prize through Princeton University.
Cameron’s previous recognition automatically qualified him to be entered into the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Contest.
Cameron attended CHS for his freshman and sophomore years and while living in Camden, involved himself in volunteer work. He volunteered his time two days a week the summer before going to the governor’s school at the Community Medical Clinic. Supervisors at the clinic wanted to address some common issues they noticed with patients who visited, so he created a display of different drinks and how much sugar each contained as one of his projects.
“I wanted people to know what they were drinking,” he said.
Cameron learned about the South Carolina Governor’s School through an art teacher at Camden High the last semester of his sophomore year; he then applied and sent in some samples of his writing.
The school accepted him a little more than a month after an interview.
Cameron said he did not begin seriously writing poetry until after entering the governor’s school.
“I took a poetry class at the governor’s school and it opened my eyes to poetry,” Cameron said.
He said he was surprised but thrilled to win both poetry honors.
“As soon as I put my work out there, people were looking for me,” Cameron said. “It is very amazing. I feel very affirmed in my work and what I have been doing the past years in my writing.”
Cameron had the privilege of visiting the White House where he was honored in the Blue Room for his achievement along with other members of the 2014 class of National Student Poets. The event afforded him the opportunity to read his poem aloud in front of the First Lady and other spectators.
“It was a really unique experience,” Cameron said. “I had never been to D.C.”
The experience has heightened Cameron’s gratitude and appreciation for the arts and those who work in the arts field.
“It was humbling to know that people in these programs have recognized my work,” he said. “I am grateful that there are people working in the arts and wanting to see the work I am putting out there.”
Cameron is currently a senior and planning for college. He is looking at schools nearby and further north.