For Children

Amelia Cai

New York: A Sestina

2006 7th-8th Grade Poetry Winner

I was fresh from Germany, and had no idea how to get a Metro Card 1
The bus driver gently refuses my bills. A young girl waves me over, talking on her phone 2
I swap the bills for the card, and scrutinize this friendly girl. She wore a lot of eyeliner 3
On her knapsack, I spy an interesting badge: "A village in Texas is missing an idiot." 4
I assume the subject is George Bush. She is also wearing navy blue Converses 5
I hear snippets of the Dave Matthews Band. 6

I look around. The young man across from me is wearing a shirt that says Ramones. "A band," 6
He says. Feeling bleak, I look at the one thing that shows I belong in New York, my green card 1
He, too, is wearing those shoes. But they are black, and the C is rubbed out on the logo Converses 5
I hear a ringing. I answer my phone 2
It is my sister, who I'm on my way to visit. "You can get through," she says. "You're not an idiot." 4
I wonder who she is now. Is she like that girl with the phone, wearing a lot of eyeliner? 3

Does she wear all black, like I hear New Yorkers do, to match her eyeliner? 3
Does she listen to the Ramones, the young man's favorite band? 6
Still, she is my sister, and I'm reassured by her words. "You're not an idiot." 4
Getting off from the bus and walking to the subway, I realize I still don't have a Metro Card 1
I look for the girl with the phone. 2
She's not there, but the nice Metro Card vendor sells me one. She is also wearing Converses 5

I look down at my fashionable-in-Germany Pumas. Maybe I should get Converses 5
As I wait for the train, I think of my girlfriend. German women don't wear eyeliner. 3
When I get on, I think to call my sister. Out of service, reads my phone. 2
"Doesn't work underground," an old lady told me. I sit beside her and turn on my favorite band 5
After a few minutes, the lady thinks to hand me a card 1
"Psalm of the Day," she says as she leaves. "Read it. Don't be an idiot." 4

Finally, he puts down his phone. 2
I motion to his shirt. It says, "3y3 5p34k 13372. What's it to you, idiot?" 4
|v|3 7[ ] oh3, I sign. K0074, he signs back, and points to his rubber wrist band 6
It says "13375p34k5. I smile and notice my Leet-speaking friend is wearing green Converses 5
I look at his eyes. Even men seem to wear eyeliner. 3
What bizarre but friendly people! I muse as I get off. I'll extend my green card. 1

I'm here. As the door opens, I note my sister's engagement band. 6
She hangs up her phone. 2
After I hug her, I hand her a birthday card.1
"See, you made it," she says. "You're not an idiot." 4
I survey her. "You need Converses." 5
She laughs. You've caught on." I look at her eyes. "And eyeliner." 3


  1. A sestina is "a verse form first used by the ProvenÁal troubadours, consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. The end words of the first stanza are repeated in varied order as end words in the other stanzas and also recur in the envoy." (
  2. 3y3 5p34k 1337. This, translated from Leet to English, means, "I speak Leet." Leet is a form of Internet slang, in which spelling and grammar are often mixed up. Leet is believed to have originated in online gaming communities, and comes from the word "elite."
  3. |v|3 7[ ] oh. This is also Leet. It means, "Me too."
  4. K007. This is also Leet. It means "Cool."
  5. Language written in Leet is often called "13375p34k," or "Leetspeak."