Tom Lee Poetry Contest Winners
On Friday, May 6, 2022, the Memphis River Parks Partnership recognized the winners of the inaugural Tom Lee Poetry and Spoken Word Contest. This annual contest honors outstanding poetry and spoken word inspired and influenced by Tom Lee and the qualities of courage, selflessness, kindness, and generosity that he exemplifies.
In his introduction, contest judge Marcus Wicker remarked, “I’m of the belief that poetry can open doorways into surprising worlds and unanticipated ideas that change the way we think about reality. And that’s exactly what happened when your words live across my desk. They taught me that food, family, and holding fast to normalcy, are makeshift shields against the horrors of war. They reminded me that the lyricism of hip hop is hyphenated, is also poetry and prayer.”
The winners performed their pieces at the fourth annual Tom Lee Day celebration.
Remember by Aayush Jain, White Station High School, Senior Kashmir, 2010 How we recoiled from torpor, pressing our ears against cloth to escape the screaming sirens and rustic barrows. They saw us chanting shanti shanti shanti as we whipped the temple bell into pulsating vibratos. It all felt like a dream. We sprinkled rice and turmeric before the altar and brought our hopeful bodies towards the clatter. Don’t forget how we stripped saffron from the spice stall and slathered the strands on our cream frocks as if we were suns—only to have our dresses splattered with brother’s blood. When our country faltered into shattered glass, our only sources of rain were gunshots. Our only sources of shine: the jagged knives of their soldiers, who ripped us apart into petals and pried our mouths open for more. At home, Ma cooked curry in our sweat of courage. We ate in silence laced with sounds of war, praying for just another day. How we recoiled from torpor, pressing our ears against cloth to escape the screaming sirens and rustic barrows.
Aayush Jain is a student at White Station High School in Memphis, TN. An emerging artist and writer, his work has been exhibited at the Memphis International Airport and Brooks Museum of Art and appears in The Adroit Journal. When he’s not creating or reading, he enjoys solving logic puzzles and scrolling through property listings on Zillow.
God Wins By Tamarrio Anderson, Memphis Business Academy High School, Senior Executive Chorus: I done had some people try to cut me out the picture cause they said the frame wasn’t big enough, I ain’t tripping bout forgiveness I can do that in a minute but I never will forget that stuff, being good don’t last forever when the love is inconsistent that you getting now yo feelings tough, I ain’t retaliating got my mind in the sky vengeance burning on fye, imma let god win x2, imma let god win that battle for me, imma let god win. Verse 1: Soul catcher spelled out in bold letters would you get yo lick back if he let us, vengeance is mine that’s what he send in me believing that give me my inner peace preserve my energy no retaliation when I run into my enemies on the street where them guns blow eyes low from that marijuana smoke in his lungs bro he dissed the set so he took a son from his mom in the ghetto it’s so easy to get a gun in his palm so listen they just took his lil bro away so big bro on a mission now his body went fishing in sea’s we gone go extinct we kill each other and neck to the knees big Floyd said he can’t breath hanging on racism we spent long enough hanging on trees kill somebody homie then comeback and the cycle proceed locked up in them chains again and they the one holding them keys but we can’t get em back if we think war is the answer we need Chorus: I done had some people try to cut me out the picture cause they said the frame wasn’t big enough, I ain’t tripping bout forgiveness I can do that in a minute but I never will forget that stuff, being good don’t last forever when the love is inconsistent that you getting now yo feelings tough, I ain’t retaliating got my mind in the sky vengeance burning on fye, imma let god win x2, imma let god win that battle for me, imma let god win. Verse 2: I had some battles I been battling on my own, I know some people that is better off left alone been hurting me for so long ion look for revenge cause in the end I’ll be so strong man it started off with the black panthers locked em down fast forward Rodney got beat on camera got a lot of film In them cameras cause cameras still rolling on got the knee on the neck and no tape for that broken home them babies ain’t fully grown but I’m scarred they ain’t living long I thought living free was right but since we black we been living wrong I guess only time that they see is when we march in violent protest raise my hands up in the air so I can get shot in my chest little johnny asked his daddy could he go out and protest I got black friends in my class and all that pain I can’t neglect he said son don’t worry bout that you shouldn’t worry bout they death you protected cause your skin is your bullet proof vest Chorus: I done had some people try to cut me out the picture cause they said the frame wasn’t big enough, I ain’t tripping bout forgiveness I can do that in a minute but I never will forget that stuff, being good don’t last forever when the love is inconsistent that you getting now yo feelings tough, I ain’t retaliating got my mind in the sky vengeance burning on fye
Tamarrio Anderson is a Senior Executive at Memphis Business Academy High School. He is an award-winning inspirational artist who has recorded and performed songs on topics such as being positive, the Bible, excellence, education, and being a winner. He enjoys eating salmon, playing basketball, hanging out with family, and exercising. This song, “God Wins,” shows how Tom Lee used faith and dedication to heroically save lives of people of a different race.
Distraught Minds By Logan Parson, Germantown High School, Senior I constantly ponder on the facts within our reality, trying to reach conclusions that my tiny human mind could never fathom. Our brothers and sisters killing each other at random. Can you understand? Why the world is so broken? Why there are billionaires praised but the homeless cannot receive the slightest bit of your emotion? Help me understand. Or is it me that has my eyes shut to the reasons? Maybe I am the one who needs to conform with the reoccurring treason. Maybe I am the one late to the mind consuming feast, being punished by my heart for my obedience to the wicked mind not yet being released. how about we all continue to crumble collectively let’s leave our damaging imprints on the earth and harm humanity forever Regret our decisions when it becomes too late and lie on our deathbeds thinking reflectively bring down the trees with our hatred and destroy the light that the sun gives and pray that someday mother nature will choose not to cast her wrath upon our souls but instead someday forgive for the many sins that has been inflicted onto her For so many years we have been failing ourselves Repeating false minds while the truth sits on shelves Screaming to be unfolded Crying to be heard But instead being placed into the evil hands of men who try to control it Twist it into their own, hide the depths of the beautiful ideas it holds, and tear it apart until all that is left is bone. Being merely an individual leaves my sorrows unbothered My slowly diminishing mind residing with thoughts unfathered By the rest of the world My wishes of unity will die with my time Being reasonable and benign has somehow been made a crime Will there ever be a time where people place their selfishness aside Where they focus on the beauty of love instead of their own pride My hopes are slowly dying My faith that we could grow straight into the stars, exit the abyss in which we lie And reclaim everything divine in order to heal our cavernous scars I constantly ponder on the facts within our reality Wondering if this peace I speak of, will ever be reached and destroy our ubiquitous depravity
Logan Parson is a senior at Germantown High School with a passion for writing. She is involved in many clubs, organizations, and also spends time doing volunteer work. She plans to attend the University of Tennessee to expand her writing capabilities and start a career in the field.