Prizewinning poems from our Open Competition 2016

First Prize:

Lunar by Patricia Wooldridge

I’m having one of my daisies –
hopscotch, throw and jump,
dive off the edge of a skullcap moon.

I can see what’s coming in the anteroom –
Are you the lady that wants to be
in the glasshouse?

Does she know about the telescope
in my ceiling? How all day the moon
crouches in the corner and I repeat:

I will not store my voice in a vase on the moon.

Did she catch me stealing the sea
shut tight in a tin with its crumble of rocks –
my beach on a dresser?

Open the lid and surf boils, shivers loose
on a wind-whip, flaking against my legs
and the land dissolves overnight on a tongue of sea.

Second Prize:

Fire in the Piano Warehouse by Owen Lewis

It is singing
As I always hoped
to make it sing

The woods give back their resins
to light and song and the metal
harps return to their basic elements
as if they themselves were composers.
The strings in high-note tension
ping back to their pure pitches.
The billows, the smoke, the firemen
ready their hoses but cannot douse
the inferno of this symphony
and the masters of the ghostly whirl
hold back the quenchers’ hands
and fill intoxicated lungs –

They can barely say:
We have never seen a piano burn
We have never seen a society
of pianos burning.

Third Prize:

Room One by Susan Utting

She tells herself: don’t listen to the judder and hum of something
switching on, the silence when it switches off; don’t try to guess
the reason for that bleached out patch of carpet, the choice
of gingham peplums, cut-plastic ceiling lights.

Everywhere
she’s in her own light – the mirror gives her back a clouded face,
mist-focussed features.  There is a touch of boutique in a tiny disc
of soap in tissue paper, sealed with a designer monogram, marked
best before November five years gone.

She tells herself: don’t think of windscreen wipers, taxidermy,
peep-holes, focus on the poppies on the coffee mugs, the way
they match the crimson painted walls, how delicate their stems:
forget the black of their daubed hearts.

She stares
at the fixed glass strip of a high window, too high to see
much out of, looks for the tops of trees, for any sort of sky.

Fourth Prizes:

The 22N Bus by Josh Ekroy

London rolls around bike superhighways
passes Festing Rd vultures waiting patiently
and I, finger-print withheld –
my future as thin as Parsons Green –
muster sleeping bag and iron rations.
Our tickets are from No More Bare Mountain,
top deck is a crowded dormitory of kicked
overcoats until the stairing of Big George
created seat space.  Now Edith Grove
is a speed-bump, asphalt-bone ride
on the deep road to intermittent.

Dave’s impervious newt eye catches
us all, before he turns over on the prized
back seat and passing rooms withhold
their curtain-chink.  My dream fevers
are vows made at Chelsea Old Town Hall;
unsleeping Uber evades the cold wind.
The no-beg zones are camera-crooned
along the Pont Street seats of dawn.
A cobalt wind lifts the world’s litter
as clouds patch our exodus.  Light draws
Corn Flakes; a shower back at the Centre.

Place Dauphine by Sandra Galton

For me there is a third person in this frame.  There always will be
an elderly couple shaking hands near to Le Palais de Justice, but
you were there, having got up early; you had gone out and caught
the morning light, the stillness – things you loved to record when
alone with your camera.  You had captured that special quality of
permanence you often felt there was – a rare magic.  In this square
old men would come out later to smoke, play petanque.  Another
day began then: the cafes, filled with people eating, lovers kissing
beneath the chestnut trees – you knew how it was once, the busy
life, being young.  You wished you could have frozen time there.

Life, being young – you wished you could have frozen time there
beneath the chestnut trees. You knew how it was once the busy
day began.  Then, the cafes filled with people eating, lovers kissing.
Old men would come out later to smoke, play petanque –  another
permanence.  You often felt there was a rare magic in this square.
Alone with your camera you had captured that special quality of
the morning light, the stillness – things you loved to record when
you were there.  Having got up early you had gone out and caught
an elderly couple shaking hands near to Le Palais de Justice – but
for me there is a third person in this frame.  There always will be.

Sturm und Drang by Stephen Boyce

So much wind, all bluster and rampage,
the pummelling of fists on the roof,
rain that hisses and would pit the glass,
trees shouldered aside, birds hurled askew.

The fallen chestnut, some seasons down,
occupies the space beside the footpath
like a slaughtered rhino, its grey carcass
sinks imperceptibly into the ground.

This is what we’ll come to, catching
the storm in a net, emptying the ocean
with a shell, lying down to die among
fallen lumber with the sound of the wind

rushing, the sound of surf pounding,
and rain, teeming, thrashing, teeming.

The Inn of the Good Samaritan by Lydia Harris

Danny and his boys from Westray set up their Portaloo.
White walls, Italian tiles for the foot-baths?

Craigie drags two buckets of rubble from the fountain
and the others clear the room.

At night the lights make mirrors in the row of pitchers,
warm the iron cup you can dip.  We lift our faces to the woman
with a band of coins on her forehead, who holds a cloth
to wipe the rim and dab our lips.

A pilgrim coach pulls up.
The pilgrims kick off their shoes, file past the bookstall
with its framed photos of a winter sky.  He clave rocks
in the wilderness, gave them drink as out of the great depths.

We make mint tea in glasses, offer it round with sachets of sugar.
You’d think yards of parachute silk had come alive in the courtyard
whenever the crickets stretch their legs and shake the gold from their wings.

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