Poetry Festival will be held:

Saturday, April 27, 2024

2022 Winner

Ode to Willie Louis

For Willie Louis, an African-American man who testified against Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam in their trial for the murder of Emmett Till

the splintering,

aching oak of the witness

stand pierces his unbelted

khaki pants.


he bears witness to a crime

only punishable in the land

untilled by whitney’s gin.


the stare of twelve

white men burns

his smooth temple,

wishing to replace his cross

with barbed wire,

the cold marble floor

with the tallahatchie


The ebony hand of God

points to the bald-headed man

across the stand of injustice


a verdict rendered centuries

before that gavel’s bang,

when the white lion breached

the fertile ground of a stolen land.


an acquittal known to all

whose yard was laced

with a white picket fence and whose

houses were built

on a dream deferred.


their stares

speak a thousand words,

not one of which is



Jack Ryan

Gonzaga College High School

Grade: 12


Cleveland Park


Old Town, VA

Favorite Author or Book:

George Moses Horton

Dream for the Future:

For my life, I would love to be a teacher and mold the minds of future generations. For the world, I dream of a more honest, compassionate, and fruitful society.

Inspirational Figure:

Mr. Ross, my English teacher.