Finishing fourth oft brings no prize –
Those who do have to be satisfied
With consolation and pride –
In a sense –
They were the best –
The best among those without prize –
The best –
Among the rest
06.13.95 – 06.14.95
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.
Notes to this poem…
I wrote this poem to be about finishing in fourth place, but I meant it just as much for second place where, again, one fell just short of something. Of all the things I had competed in over the years leading up to the writing of this poem in 1995, whether in school academics, athletics or otherwise, I often ended up with second prize or Honourable Mention, or something akin to them if there were no official first, second, third and so on, like the first person left off a team for stuff like math competition results.
The first glaring result of the kind was my grade 8 Science Fair. I finished second in my school despite believing I had the best project. Luckily, the top several projects got to go to regionals where I was able to prove my point by taking second place, only displaced by a couple of guys whose Parents at a local university helped them with their projects and gave them access to six figure equipment. A little unfair, as they were booed when they were announced with their prize, but I ended up with two second prizes just the same.
Other things followed, though not without the occasional outright success here and there, like the grade 12 Engineering Olympics where my paper airplane was the best in the contest and helped our team win the overall crown. However, I was developing the sports mentality that I couldn’t win the big one, or just missed out on it when my Under-18B City Celtics team won the provincial soccer crown with me on vacation with my family in California. I was no star on the team, but to miss out on the big moment was just not in my plans.
Through it all, I tended to focus on the negative of those results rather than their positives that they were still great results. There were a lot of people who went home with nothing in every one of those competition. As well, I have the most diversified collection of prizes I know of anybody, and even more so now with my personal development since 1995 when I moved out of my home and no longer had my overcaring Parents suffocate my personality and potential. I have prizes in several sports team and individual, writing arts, community work, academics in a wide range of subjects, etc. and I plan to be adding and diversifying this collection for years to come. However, a lot of them are still of the variety outside of first, but I have come to accept that a lot more these days since I know how difficult it is to be the best, fortunate to be surrounded by people who are the best in many things they do and seeing what it takes, and I had long decided to be good at a lot of things rather than great at one or two things.
And you know what? I am!
The O-series of poems are one stanza poems composed before I got onto writing haiku and tanka, and short poetry while in action or traveling by select means like plane or ferry. These poems are 3-9 lines long with at least one rhyming couplet, and not of the short forms just mentioned. For the sake of elegance, I just called the collection One.