Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2021 finalist Eleanor Yu! Eleanor finished 8th grade this past school year. Her poem is called “Transcendent Dreams.” We love the way Eleanor played with formatting in her poem.

by Eleanor Yu


She ~ w e a v e s ~ through the masquerade
shadows r i p p l i n g 
velvet s w i s h i n g

Murmurs and whispers c h a s e

that girl who follows her rules, 
listens to her voice,
dreams to her r h y t h m
bamboo against w i n d

a chandelier drops, b r e a k s 
~ g a s p s ~ 
a minute before they had oohed, ahhed over it
now the glittering shards remain untouched

She shakes her head as she leaves them behind

Her mind, 
tangled gossamer,
thorny clouds,
a bird with crooked wings

Her mind
shadows ebb to and fro
hands snake f o r t h 

Palms UP
Desperation takes her as kin

But the fingers part,
they always do,
melding with the black sea,
and she buries her head to 

Then she sees—

A footprint,
a bottle,
a tiny scroll thrust before her
She dives after it
catches it
unfurls it

She transforms.

Arms to wings. [ Legs ]

Trapped in a cave of hungry eyes.

Despair lays clammy fingers upon her skin—feathers.



Talons flex in, flex out
legs throb, buckle
wings a c h e 

What it once was to fly!

M O V E !

Legs s t r a i n,
wings f  l  u  t  t  e  r,

down on knees,
bruised and scraped,
the shadows leer,


A footprint shimmers,
a bottle glitters,
a tiny scroll thrust before her

She inches forward
bends her beak
snatches it up


She transforms.

Wind w h i p s around her
she shudders
wings back to arms
legs free

She smiles
shouts her jubilance
but sound?


Curves of the moor
slanted rays of light
n o n e  in  sight

She roams for days
throat parched, palms callused
now backstory gnaws 
at the back of her mind

A princess.
An heir.

Doomed to wander.
Fated to mourn.
Destined to pass
with no more than a single

proof she had been.

What was it like to have it all but
e v e r y t h i n g?

Jagged shards cut at her heart

down on knees,
bruised and scraped,
the shadows leer,


A footprint glows,

a bottle shines,
a tiny scroll thrust before her

Hobbling with her b r o k e n knees,
her arms pumping,
she grabs the scroll


She transforms.


Panic surges 
Her heart beats wildly
a bird in a gilded cage 

She screws her eyes shut,
Grasps the sides of the 

and simply

s c r e a m s

Her voice breaks 

Everything  f a l l s  around her

Flings her  a r m s  o u t

Paper legs f a l t e r

down on knees,
bruised and scraped,
the shadows leer,

Mirages shatter,
Illusions dissolve,
What is left?

Now back…

back in her room
lamp still glowing
bed still unmade
cracks in the mirror gone

Slowly, on tiptoes she rises
Surrounded by tides
Carrying doves
Finding her loves

Spreads her s h a t t e r e d wings
The b r o k e n ~ t h r e ads~ coming back together

She rises 

And rises

And rises

She has always been the trapped bird,
Always been the queen without a crown,
Always been so full yet so empty

No. More.

Small cogs
Big machines
Small perspectives
Big, big world

But true.

Then aim to be the biggest cog you can. 
The biggest voice you can. 
There will always be someone better.

Without your freedom, your voice, your being—you can be nothing. 
But you are something.

Do the best you can
Sometimes no hands
Will come together for you
But you do you
And it will be all right 

Build castles from the blood of your scars
Shape worlds from the ether of your heart

Transcend yourself 


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