Skip To Content

So this is freedom

Editor’s Note: The Forward is featuring essays, poems and short stories written for our Young Writers Contest. Today’s entry was written by Lily Stroud, a 15-year-old student from Brooklyn Tech in Brooklyn, NY. You can find more work from our young writers here.


7 years old

I belonged to two families

My family at home and my

Tree family

My tree family

Inside my favorite birch, small, but never overlooked

The walls

A faint misty lilac,

The carpet

Shaggy and white, grayed with age and the mess

Of my being there

Lily Stroud

Contestant: Lily Stroud is a 15-year-old student at Brooklyn Tech. Image by Courtesy of Lily Stroud

14 years old

Double a lifetime

Of knowledge

Of wisdom

Of suffering

Every footstep, a mountain climbed

Every heartbeat, a race ran

Every conversation, a weekend of obnoxious partying

All purpose


My shadow stalking me

No matter how far I went

The dark witch would beat me

Swallow me whole

15 years old

Who am I?

The air that is neither winter nor spring filled

My lungs

The pansies, the tulips, the crocuses,


My tree

Life sprouting from its fingertips

I check in on my tree family

How is baby Fay?

I recall her body was not faring well last year

A voice whispers in my ear

Look up

My tree has an intruder

A rope

Caught up in its limbs

Even in the strongest gale,

It would not give

I balance on my tippy toes

In my threadbare soul-popping

Chuck Taylors

Extend my eczema plagued hand and

Tug the scratchy textile down

I notice the people staring

But this time

I don’t have a care in the world

I just untangled my tree

My family


So this is freedom

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.