Senior Isabelle Snyder Takes First Place at PSPA States

At the Pennsylvania Scholastic Press Association’s State Competition, senior Isabelle Snyder took first place in the Literary Magazine Poetry event. Her submission, “Stop the Spread,” details the flurry of emotions she has experienced while attending school throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Snyder’s winning submission for the competition is below.

Stop the Spread

By Isabelle Snyder

My skin feels like a betrayal

Hands exposed

Door handles, railings, and backs of chairs

Branding me.

Objects leaving their imprint

Sinking in like memory foam.

A classmate’s touch makes me feel nauseous,


Even so, I’ve become desperate for more.

A hug on the staircase,

A linked arm on the way to fourth block.

I feel guilty.

The moments I am happy in school are the moments I am too close.

Laughing, squeezed on a bench,

Bumping elbows as the analogue clock ticks.

No doubt long, unclean minutes ground away.

A crushing sense that my desire to be close,

To touch,

Could hurt someone.

Sometimes, when I let myself be still,

I trace a spiderweb in my mind,

Each sparkling thread a person.

And as the gossamer grows,

Becoming a living map,

Bubbles colliding,

I start to imagine the unknown consequences.

What if that bump in the hallway set off a spiral?

Like the clicking of pale dominoes

Falling one by one,

Infecting a person I may never know.

And then I stop.

Brushing the web aside and killing the spider.

A crackle of cruelty under my skin,

Choosing not to interpret.

I spray more hand sanitizer. The momentary pucker of the disinfectant

Pausing the spiral in my head before it spreads.

Sucking me in.