The Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize is sponsored by the English Department at CCSU. It was created by former English professor Barry Leeds to celebrate the memory of his daughter Leslie.
Winner: River Lockhart
Finalist: Ta’Nina Gatison
Finalist: Nicole Moulton
Judge: Professor Aimee Pozorski
By River Lockhart
He strums away on his strings
While the choir sings low notes
Over bass tone. And I think to myself
“I want to be like the bassist”
He plays a new song while the pastor
Gives his weekly lecture about the dangers
Of sinning. The choir stops singing
As the pastor barks his sermon.
He roars “The scripture warns us against
Gluttony, and though Jesus did turn water
to wine, he never fell into drunkenness.
Now I ain’t alone, can I get a witness?”
And at his call, the bassist plays his song.
And I recall my grandpa saying
“Ain’t no reason for that boy to be here
smellin’ like alcohol.”
The bassist keeps playing his song
Ministers respond “Amen”
The pastor stops his sermon and commands
“Praise Him!” as the bassist strums
I want to be like the bassist
Not to learn how to play his four strings
But watching the church move, I learned
That sinners praise better than saints.
BY Ta’Nina Gatison
If I could see, I’d search
for the light above the
surface. The depth of my
dwelling binds me.
Chilled currents of the sea
fill my porous frame, and
I ponder how the sun feels
on the mainland where
the sand is always warm.
I seek sanctuary
In your radiance.
The beacon of hope
awaits my arrival.
By Nicole Moulton
It was no foreign word
It had grown with me like pierogies and kompot
The pear trees in my grandparents garden
Raspberry branches, overgrown arms reaching beyond the fence
I was raised by loud voices, coffee fanatics, and lovers of music
It was somewhere between the lines
Of learning to believe in God
Knowing two languages at two years old
And being told to play outside
I find peace in sunlight on my face
And the pitter patter during a calm rainstorm
I find love in dark corners
Where it may just need some watering
Life is flowering
A lotus from the mud
Ever transforming to a better place
Just as us humans can do
I grew up with insomnia
Sleep paralysis demons finding their way
From night into day
But we all have them anyway
I cross each bridge with care
Because we all share overgrown raspberry gardens
Crazy daydreaming humans, backyards filled with
Miscellaneous treasures, experiences
Reminders that even the stinging bee
Comes with the sweetness of honey
I now find peace in my backyard
As I sleep through the night.
Header Image courtesy of Deneja Atkins for Blue Muse Magazine.
River Lockhart, Ta’Nina Gatison, and Nicole Moultan are students at Central Connecticut State University.