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Student Wins 2020 Georgia Poet Laureate’s Prize

Sarah Lao '21 is the recipient of the 2020 Georgia Poet Laureate's Prize.

The award is given to the high school student with the best poem. More than 265 poems from across the state were judged by the current state poet laureate, Chelsea Rathburn.

Launched in 2014 by former Georgia poet laureate Judson Mitcham, in collaboration with the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Georgia Poet Laureate’s Prize is an annual program designed to encourage works by teen writers.

“Seascape”
By Sarah Lao

The last scene begins with
a close-up of our powdered feet & all the
extra film grain stifles the shore.

You tell me the reefs won’t last &
I pretend to laugh while the tide rolls
past our ankles & everything buffers—

how sand falls in damp clumps
from your heel, your limbs the bladed
lurch of a broken windmill.

In the sky, gulls crumple to rain with an
economy of pleats & the screen floodlights.
We try again. TAKE 2.

Forget the lines & the water that yearns
to fill me as if I were an empty cistern.
At midnight, I build myself a body double

out of algae. Dot its eyes with cowries &
embed my self beneath the sands. The director
tells me get up, you’re so close, we can already 

imagine it. He says—TAKE 3.
I swallow the sea. It tastes like stale lettuce
heads & all I want is the honey coating our hands

to be sweat, my bloated body to ferry
desire & not foam padding. The camera
shudders & the lights switch off. I tumble.

I fantasize. I slide past the credits &
wipe the lens clean & transparent. Forgive
the sea’s blotting of the littoral.

 

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