The annual Luschei Family Poetry awards celebration at the Lynda Fairly Carpinteria Arts Center was held virtually this year on May 16. In the child poetry category, Orly Espinoza was honored; Noah Manzarek was the winner of the teen poetry division; and Christina Gessler won the adult poetry competition. The judges this year included poets Giti White, Gaby Edwards and Anna Fortner. The contest is sponsored by poet Glenna Berry Horton Luschei.


Child Poetry Winner


By Orly Espinoza, age 8


Orange and beautiful

standing open to the sun.

Their petals dance in the light.

At the end of the day

they close their petals

and say good night.



Teen Poetry Winner


Leper Tree

Noah Manzarek, age 17


There is a place of naught

In the dry valley

Where the air smells of rot;

Where the lepers flee.

Father told me that

It’s no place for me

But I look down there at

That old leper-tree.

There’s a pulpy amber drum,


That seems to glare at us from

The leper trail’s end.

It sloughs from the

Old and scaly bark,

And when it stares back at me

I see countless darkened hearts.



Adult Poetry Winner


What Falls Away

By Christina Gessler


Don’t ask me to explain Passover or Easter or Ramadan;

or how George Floyd’s family will ever forgive anyone.

Don’t ask me how broken bones knit back together; or why a caterpillar melts into a goopy soup then emerges from the cocoon a butterfly;

or what is holy.

Give these questions to the scientists and scholars and those with vast vocabularies and faith.

Give me, instead, a course in ordinary miracles:

A flock of birds in the neighbor’s tree to awake the morning darkness with wordless hymns of dawn;

And breath after breath filling and leaving my lungs, effortlessly.

Then let me witness the moment the butterfly’s wings finish drying, before they stretch full length and attempt flying.

After I learn to trust in these small things,

Let me sleep through a dreamless night;

Let me praise ordinary mysteries—pens with ink; the simple spelling of j-o-y and l-o-v-e;

Let me start at the beginning, again, with hands open and able to carry these wishes and hopes without worry for what slips though my fingers like sand.

I’ll leave them where they fall

because this is the only miracle I know:

You do not have to carry it all.

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