Teddy Tibbs ’23 was awarded first prize in the 2022 Gaithersburg Book Festival high school poetry contest for his poem "Reflections of the Delta."
“This is a car ride that I took from Memphis, Tennessee to Cleveland, Mississippi, and I remembered a lot of the scenes from that car ride and decided afterwards to make a poem,” Tibbs explained the genesis of the poem.
“I really like the whimsical nature of it, and I think it appealed to people who maybe had not been to Mississippi, people from the Northeast who maybe hadn’t seen the South or hadn’t seen a rural farming community before,” he added.
The Gaithersburg Book Festival is an annual all-day celebration of books, writers, and literary excellence. A local poet, Gregory Luce, judged the poems and the winners were announced at the festival held Saturday, May 21. Along with the first-place title, Tibbs also earned a $250 prize.
Read the poem below. Congratulations, Teddy!
An old Cadillac floats past the snow-white fields,
Its old dents have traveled here before,
Soft blue-sky surrounds the car, enveloping the ground,
The cotton ball clouds follow the ageing white car,
As we pass the ripe fields, I feel a sense of peace,
I belong here, among the sprawling magnolias and cypresses.
I pass by worn brick houses sag into the earth,
Aged tin roofs rust to match the dark soil,
Only dilapidated store fronts remain,
A transient monument to ancient greatness.
In Cleveland there are too many yard crosses to count,
This oasis draws people who continue tradition,
They greet strangers as if they had known each other forever.
Here, people preserve the old ways through dress, décor and kindness.
As I walk through downtown, I wish I could stay forever,
But life snatches me away from this strange paradise.
Again, an old Cadillac floats across the cracked road,
The whirling clouds retreat behind me as white gold is harvested,
Rolled into bails by men with no opportunity,
Given shoddy homes and failing schools with a false promise future.
As the long car sails through the never-ending white ocean,
I think about the people who will never live this land.
Trapped in a world of concrete, tweets and posts,
Ivory towers that touch the gray New England sky,
While they denounce these proud people of being deluded and irrational,
Believing their few genuine experiences give them that power.
A sad notion as I look out the window to the passing pecan trees,
Waving a sort of goodbye to as the fading Cadillac hums by.
As the cracked farm road becomes more than a two-lane highway,
And this whimsical dreamland evaporates before my eyes.