Monthly Archives: April 2013

Prizewinning poems from our 2013 Poetry Competition


Cheryl, Martyn, Daljit and Judy

First Prize:  Judy Brown     This Is Not a Garden

‘This garden, in fact, may not even be entered’      (from ‘A Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto’ by Mark Treib / Ron Herman)

This is not a yard, this is a garden:
new decking slatted over a tumble of roaches.
This is a yard full of potted tropical flora,
the lotus swimming in its own pool,
mosquito-eating fish guarding its stem.

I can’t know whether this is a yard
or a garden, though we ate out here last night,
the iPod snicking in its dock, soft lighting
making silhouettes behind the trellis.
This is not a garden, this outdoor, hosable sofa

or this bed where we never both sleep well.
It is a sort of park, public in places, this marriage
where amusements are scheduled and planned.
This garden, this marriage, is divided into rooms.
In some, others are welcome, like yourself.

This yard, this marriage, this bed, should be
like a garden – so many topics victim
to the secateurs. It should pass like a wave
through the seasons, appearing to be young
or else gnarled, wholly taken by age.

This man made this garden for me, whether
I liked it or not. After I had gone, he let it
go wild, to armoured holly and hawthorn,
the small beer of thugweeds, but in time
it will settle, a wiry daisy meadow, well-fenced.

Second prize:  Cheryl Moskowitz     In a Dallas Laundry

My man’s a hit at the Laundromat
Who’d have thought you could teach a boy
to fold that way, what a star! Cuffs
and creases in all the right places,

It’s the way the stripes line up just
right that gets them, every time. All
the ladies crowd around, woo-hooing,
He reminds me of mine says one

You should have seen him in his uniform
she’s full faced and bright cheeked
like they are from the New World.
I recall she says, taking her socks

from the drier and putting another
quarter in for the rest, Just after they
fired the rifles, and the boy with the bugle
Oh she practically swayed

remembering it, the seven starched
men on the lawn not a button or seam
undone. How they pulled the cloth tight
between them. Like making up a hospital

bed she said. Cotton stars at one end,
red and white stripes at the other –
corner turned  upon corner till all
nine feet of it’s a single triangle of blue

Now that’s what I call presentation My husband
tucks away the final sleeve and the ladies
watch in admiration. We never use an iron
in our house, it’s true Don’t you lose that man

they tell me and fix us both with a stare
but their minds have drifted to another
place elsewhere to fallen sons and folded flags
I take the Daz and my husband holds his shirts

to his breast and salutes the women as we go.

Third Prize:  Martyn Crucefix          The lovely disciplines

See Ginny’s son and Ginny’s daughter-in-law
rest useless hands on the raised bed-rail

stare down to where Ginny writhes and squirms
her slender left arm reaching O so high

while her bare right calf lies crooked across
the cold retaining bar as lucky Jane all day

scuts with her bird-like legs folded under
to clear the turning wheels of her chair

while she roams the ward her working shoulders
pump each shove as if she’d tear herself clear

of the purple seat while Michaela’s throat
goes sucking great holes in the hospital air

and rubs itself raw till she’s like a bull-seal
honking on a distant shore she may have once

defended open-eyed though no-one here
believes Michaela will stir—no brighter hope

any more for Linda where she settles quiet
in her purple dressing-gown beside her bed

neat as a serviette her eyes fixed on a man
from her V of hands while he stares at her

from his V of hands the woman who he moved for years
coterminous with who now prefers

distance and darkness and being dumb . . .
O no more those lovely disciplines

we reassure ourselves it’s human to pursue
and no more those sweet acts of will

we treasure briefly or we take for granted
consoling ourselves that we will be spared

the horror of long blue rooms like these—
the slack and supine and all the twaddle

of decay and we persuade ourselves
that the truth need not be so bleak

as it seems for these who hold the floor today
who turn barely more than one leaf turns

in being blown to the gutter who seem
as nothing to themselves if more to others

who come with names they cannot let go
murmuring Ginny Michaela darling Linda Jane

Fourth prizes:

Patricia Ace     Tiny, in all that immortal air

From the fifth floor power-suited women in heels and helmets
balance briefcases on scooters as they race the lights on Diagonal.

The vendors saunter along the beach at Barcelonetta chanting
their mantra– cola, aqua, cervesa. The Asian girls offer tattoos or massage.

In the dark passages of The Born crones garbed in magician’s black
push cardboard signs towards tourists while their hands scour pockets.

The homeless, the alcoholic, the crazy veer from the shadows
like zombies. They seek out the flesh of those fresh from abroad.

Yet up here our host grows lemons on his terrace, the Palace so close
you could lean out and touch it. Cable cars coast over Mont Juique.

From the balcony, I watch my daughter walk towards the metro. I won’t
see her until Christmas; her blonde head blinks where it catches the sun.

From this height the city splays out like a ravenous dragon, chewing
up people, spitting them out. I watch until she becomes a dot, a speck.

 Pnina Shinebourne     Incendio

Sand pours down his eyelashes,
grains grit in his mouth   ears   nose,
sandwaves lick his feet –  two million
five hundred forty-two thousand three
hundred , my father, eight years old,
is counting sand (a myriad, he writes
in his arithmetic homework).
Slow-down-time, glare , dazzle –
incendio!  he tries the fire-making
spell, a broken mirror   catch the sun
Bits of his memory have drifted apart,
buried in sand, yet still breathing

His shoulders hunched over the table,
father and I are putting a jigsaw together.
Father studies the edges, carefully.
His mind a puzzle – how many ways
to fit fourteen pieces into a square?
how much peel to cover an orange?

But the formula is lost, his homework
sheets blown in the sandstorms
by prayers for marriage, blessings, repentance.
If father could read the traces
of  another  life
peering from underneath,
I guess he’d say –
     give me a place to stand
                    and I will move the world.


Sarah is doing something she has wanted
to do since she was 14. She has strolled
through Golden Gate Park, where she saw
a fire engine on its way to or from a 911,
red & gold & gleaming; she is sure those
muscular young men must take such a pride
in their work, and she understands Lily
Hitchcock Coit’s fascination with hoses
& all the other paraphernalia of fire engines.

Then as she turns to cross the Panhandle
& go up Shrader, a genuine Hell’s Angel
putters past at no more than 20 mph,
his hair is long enough to escape his helmet,
his black beard is a flag in the breeze but
this is not Sonny Barger or Terry The Tramp;
did he notice her in his dentist’s mirror
while he psyched out Toyota drivers?

But the next vehicle that catches her eye
is a wheelchair piloted with careless expertise
by a grizzled amputee sporting a tattoo
tagging him as 51st Airborne Division,
a Vietnam vet she realises is her dad’s age.
He is overweight, his hair is greasy,
his clothes are stained, his eyes are red.

A bus stops, the man reverses his chair,
a ramp is lowered with deliberate speed,
he is neither helped nor hindered.
Haight St. is a Camden Lock clone complete
with street peoples’ Spare change mantra.
Time to call a Vets Cab to North Beach.

Kathy Miles     Gardening With Deer

And now you know for yourself how it is.
The ragged hours’ breathing,
long nights and longer days.
Watching her shift in her sleep,
as the moon turns and skies alter
and the ghost-trees of early morning
are heavy with frosted leaves
like a fruit of hanging doves.

A lifetime of gardening with deer,
their rough noses huffing
over the fence, nipping at the roses.
Apple and dogwood, linden and birch.
Fraying the bark of saplings
to remove the velvet, their heads
laid against the trunks. The stag
whipping the branches with his antlers.

All this is remembered in a still room
where the spirit of the white deer
with an arrow in his heart
walks through her dreamtime,
and the sweet musky sigh of roebuck
in the back of her throat
rises with every breath.
You hold her hand,
anxious, yet dreading her waking.

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