World Poetry Day

Category: Cadet News
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Today is World Poetry Day! Every year, poetry is featured as one of the many cadet talents and achievements showcased at the John Calabro Night of the Arts, a Margin Of Excellence event hosted by the Department of English and Philosophy, USMA and the USMA Cadet Humanities Forum. Endowed by Fred Gretsch, a childhood friend of Calabro, and his wife, Dinah, the event honors the late COL John Calabro Jr. ’68, who spent nearly 20 years mentoring faculty members and cadets in the Department of English, including 15 years as course director. Keep an eye out for coverage of this year’s event on April 19, 2024!

Check out last year’s winners of the John Calabro Night of the Arts poetry contest!

Cadet Mess


We      fill six of the twelve seats at the table

                                                                                           I          more than the rest

How are you?                          Good, how are you?                     How are you really?

I am                4 ounces of chicken     3 spoons of rice      2 scoops of greens       1 roll of bread

                        good or bad or green or red or plus or minus

           not both or neither


I am                 good or bad or green or red or plus or minus

                        what widens the space between          us

                        is all I have left

                        which is nothing right

suddenly five mouths are too        far away                for me to               hear them

         and my mouth is            too full                     to call out for help and                                     

   my body                  takes up                    enough space without              wordswordswords

                                                                                                                       echoing out of it                                         

I am                  1 hour, 2 times a day, 3 uniforms, 4 pounds to lose

            another month bleeding from the wrong places

            a pool made by a thick wad of my thin hair

            my parents my poor parents who created this body

                         my                                                                    body

We                    say goodbye, see you soon, have a good night

                                      but                                 I                                    don’t think I will

When six            becomes one         and 21C. becomes the handicap stall of the fourth-floor bathroom

     it will           all            come up





  Then it will really be good.



Perhaps it is best to appease the Dead.

Rotting headstones mark temples and beds

Made weak by time and fate,

But strong in a will to wait.

Asleep, these temples lie in silent peace,

Epitaphs refusing their faded voices cease.

Inscriptions of heroes and saints abound;

Though, are they true to original sound?

Too often do the living perjure the Dead

With remembrances now confused and bled

From a gushing wound called time –

Too large, too quick, the clocktower’s constant chime. 

Perhaps we are frightened that honest epitaphs, conducive

In calling her “Absent” and him “Abusive,”

Should awaken the Dead to haunt us like ghosts

Enraged by justice – slithering, screaming spectral toasts.

Yes, perhaps it is best that the living

Appease the Dead – so “Beloved” it is, truth again relenting.

Permanent etchings now manifesting memories,

Marking fallen temples – lies as legacies.

I want a beautiful life


to:                 ,

I want a beautiful life.

I know how that must sound—cliché.

Full of that melancholic angst

That consumes nearly everyone’s early twenties.

Until It fades into a mere linger

That only creeps out under the cover of late nights

When the bottle is empty

The world fuzzy and the lump

In your throat.

Perpetual motion

Interrupted by moments

too late

too drunk

to mean anything.

Despite all this, I mean it.

I want an existence of specificity

Amongst the universal

Engulfed in the grasp of contemplation

Seeped in passion

Unexplored depths and tethered souls

Enamored by the convoluted mess of quiddity;

Long conversations under city lights and

Stolen glances behind bookshop shelves

Chasing the fleeting present

Intoxicated by the intimacy of a stranger;

I want to live in the space

Between everything and nothing

To entangle my soul in that of another

Under the gaze of the green light

Still, find the peace in the simplicity of life

To reside in unapologetic absoluteness

Destroyable, but not defeatable.

To protest the limitations of the human condition

Escape the Hollywood movie ectoplasms

Yet romanticize its mystery chasing

The man in the crowd.

I want a life filled with




—to make my existence raw poetry.

To have the clarity and stillness to meet


As deeply as I’ve met others.

To escape the unequivocable

Ache of inarticulation

Embracing the pain

Beautifully scathed

From elation to deep sorrow

All raw and consuming.

An unspoken dialogue

Someone else’s words

Foreign on my lips

On the odyssey of euphoria

That is,

Until they see.

I met you under the lights

Of someone else’s city

An empty mirror

Refracted reflection

Tracing the outlines of your being

Slicing my finger

On the edges of my own;


A borrowed shirt

Plagiarized passion

A caveated kiss

Shades of solitude

Disguised in the exile

Of shared existence

And yet,

Totality’s tethered

To all that we touch,

Your hands on my waist

A conglomeration of collected spaces

My fingers on the corner of each page

Searching for the phrase




To find

That the demarcations of my soul

Are inextricably intertwined

Within the narrative of humanity

A rhapsody of unrequitedness

Engulfed in contemplation

I want to escape uncut,

Drowning in the sea of myself

How far into the depths

Do I descend,

If our expiration date

Is last call?

Devoured by the

Consumption of nothingness

An ephemeral existence

Is our beauty mutually exclusive


Is this mimicry

A beautiful convolution

Of all that we are

And all that we touch?

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