We provide communities with the tools they need to reclaim their riverfront lands.

Ninth Grade Finalists

It all began so slow
Simple like the life of a bird
It was so young
Everything so free and untouched
Everything in perfect harmony
Yes it all started fine
With not a worry ever found
It seemed like all simply understood
Yes it’s future was insured with a taste of honey
And not one care ever noted
It was wild and untamed
But that’s what we saw fit
We came upon this land like a virus
Like some demonic plague
They all said hey joe
You gotta get out here
It’s paradise
And as we all came seeking a slice
We never heard the words of reason
Yes we were driven by these words
And lead by these dreams
To us we were heroes
Conquering the promised land
But in truth we were rapist
Seeking that missing piece
Slowly we made our mark
And chronically began to kill the land
It was manifest destiny
It was misguided folly
Soon it was evident
We were doing wrong
So the better of us tried to help
But you can’t count on a creature so young
To better a way so old
For you see we did more harm than good
We simply didn’t know
For instead of freeing the mother river
We gave her a concrete grave
And now as we look back I wonder
Can it ever be?

- Rene Cortez

 

A silver moon hangs overhead
In the fields the wet grass sings
And throughout the land of another’s hand
The sound of sunlight sings
It is dark today
Clouds distort the skies
But do not fear the shadows here
And do not suffer their lies
You hear a song of night’s end
You hear them whisper to the abyss
The morning will come soon, farewell to the moon
The night which none will miss
So let them speak
It is this that they believe
The golden face, the sun and space
For the future we shall grieve
Look up to the north
Walk past the golden fields
The deep blue stream, the eternal dream
And see what morning yields

- Tyler Dosaj

 

CHANGE

Desperate for change
the almighty river never lets her guard down
And for this we block her banks with intoxicating concrete
Never realizing that in trying to stop her oh so precious
overflowing,
we destroy our very being
We no longer can vision the utopia meant to be
Iron clad locks and festering waters are screaming
in our face, such a familiar place
Though to many she is the unknown, the don’t know
that keeps flowing on and on
Her once clear fresh water teeming with protein fish
now sheltered and concealed from peering eyes
No more a sight for sore eyes, but
assault us with each glance
She never rests and only lets us guess what happened to
her glorious sandbottoms
Now we know
we are falling to perdition without her guidance and nutrients
to nourish the weak
In the future she’ll be again the queen that reigns over our
precious Southern California
Los Angeles River, you will be again
a 3-fold paradise dream making all
whole again…

- Jackie Leon

 

A River that Was

A river that once was…
A place you can dip your feet
now is…
paved with concrete

A river that once was….
full of life and diversity
now is…
changed to go with our modern city

A river that once was…
a home to the Tongva
now is…
buried as surely as Yangna

A river that once was…
strong, lively, aggressive
now is…
not really impressive

The day we can stop interfering and changing
is when we can hear as the bird sings
It seemed convenient to change it
How come we could not see how the idea didn’t fit
One day instead of a river that once was and now is…
Can be a river that once was and still is

- Rio Lopez

 

Home

Every year
I return to Mexico
and relish in the music that floats
into my ears and heart
the songs of the trees and the butterflies
the beauty of my land
I have marveled at the way the sun
glimmers and shines
as it takes a dip in the underwater city
that is a river
It’s called “El Arroyo”
a natural habitat
natural what a beautiful word
we need more natural
in L.A.
Why does the L.A. River have concrete?
El Arroyo doesn’t
Why must it be contaminated?
El Arroyo isn’t
My Arroyo who gives protection
warmth
love
and a home
to those who need it
You have lived for many years
Our L.A. River
needs more natural
let’s let go of
The Concrete Age!

- Melissa Lopez

 

Sway

Interest in the blue
Darkened by the green
Floated on gray
Condensed by black
Polluted with yellow
Contained by silver
Chained against the wall
Angered one season at a time
Site for spray can spraying markings
A burial ground of what used to be
Flow bothered by artificial curves
Styro foam cup galore
With a hint of hamburger packing
We can’t fix this by containing it
We can’t change what we have done
Break the gray
Move the silver
Cut the chains
Lighten the green
Sweep the yellow
Let the seasonal anger pass
This way, a river, we will have

-Harut Melikyan

 

Wrong

You provided life…
You gave everything…
You had no equal adversary…
You were a young warrior in the midst of flourishing…
You were clean and beautiful, nourishing…
You gave everything you had without ambition, without care…
You gave us many warnings, but we chose not to become aware…
Aware that we were causing destruction…
That our actions would cause a bad reaction...
That one by one we had become assassins…
Assassins of our nature, of our path, of your way…
And for this we must now pay…
We must pay for making you grotesque…
We must pay with all this mess…
We must reconstruct for we are stuck…
Stuck in unhappiness…
Stuck in a city without blue skies…
A city without answers only why’s…
Why were we so ignorant to your warnings, your yearnings…
It is now that we finally realize after so long…
That you were right and we were wrong…

- Esperanza Navarro

 

The River Man

He steps with bare feet into the fresh water of the river,
He feels the slippery mud rise through his toes,
But keeps on walking as if he is walking on hard concrete.
He is not sure why he walked into the water, but he knew he was in the right place.

From his knees down, his legs had already begun to disappear.
He didn’t pay much attention to this,
It was supposed to happen.
He sank lower and lower until he felt he no longer had legs,
Then he saw two fish swim away, upstream, in the direction he was walking,
His legs.

He fell onto his palms,
He felt the same sensation,
The wet mud rising up through his fingers’ spaces.
He let the current knock him over and flip him without control,
He knew that it was meant to happen.

He felt his arms disintegrate under him, not worrying.
His arms were digging and disintegrating all at once, into the ground,
The mud under him lit up with life all at once,
But he was left limbless.

He was nothing but a stub of a man now,
Floating through the river with no real purpose.
He was waiting for something to happen, Because he knew it would.

The wings dug into the back of his half-body,
He was bloody and tired.
The wings spread, as his body became smaller along with his head,
He hovered over the river, as small as a butterfly,
His past self was forever deposited in the river,
Giving it a new life, while doing the same for him.

-Ben Rosenberg

 

Before
there were
rivers or trees
or flowers, there
was a dragon
of excellent
power. He devoured
the dry and
barren land, and
from his tail, and
from his hand, so
beautiful did grow
the land.

After
the land had
grown and prospered
the people came
to forcefully
accost her. They
found the dragon
who made the
flowers and
slayed her to
show their power.
From her body
escaped the evils s
he did devour.

Now
humans live
in a polluted
world because of
their own minds,
twisted and curled.

- Kasey Rubenstei

 

It started as a raindrop
Falling from a cloud
It hit the dusty mountainside
And began to swirl and glide
Getting bigger every minute
Now a stream appears
Gathering speed it twists and turns
Now in sight the beauty
Slowly being torn away
Pollution swirling through the stream
From pulchritudinous to grotesque
Descry only the abominable redolence
The beauty forgotten and dissipated

- Mussa Shams