KENT & SUSSEX POETRY SOCIETY
OPEN POETRY COMPETITION 2018
We are pleased to announce the results of our Open Poetry Competition 2018, judged by Helen Ivory. The competition attracted over 1400 entries, and the prizes have been awarded as follows:
FIRST: “The Train has Rushed to Us with Precious Gifts from Far Away” by Ken Evans
SECOND: “Sting” by Kathy Miles
THIRD: “This Photographer Observes” by Simon French
FOURTH: “Kitchen Sink” by Clare Kirwan
” “Clothing the Linen-cupboard” by Lucy Watt
” “In My Next Life” by Catherine Bateson
” “Octopus Tank, Torbay Aquarium” by Cheryl Pearson
The poems will be published on our website for you to read within the next week.
Thank you for entering. Best wishes in your future poetry endeavours.
The Train has Rushed to Us with a Precious Cargo
of Gifts from Far Away
(Soviet poster, 1919, Tate Modern, London)
Since, I have to think harder
what I say. Words are pond carp
who, on sipping at the surface,
gobble their own sound.
Since, a nail is harder to hit,
the weight of the hammer-head
needs thought not to shatter
the wood or curl a nail.
Since, I slur, by which I mean,
I’m tired, by which I mean, a part
of my brain is gone; I mean,
I’m losing the light. Soft synapses.
Stroke means to caress gently,
a butterfly applying pressure
to a petal. To stoke is to build-up
from a little. A streak is clouds.
This Photographer Observes
a thorn bride waiting in the psalmhouse,
cigar-burn in her wedding dress.
Outside, blowtorched air huffs. She barely sips,
smears lipstick on a tin mug
given her by the pastor.
She has decorated the kind of eyes ravens
daren’t peck out,
not on a day like this
but her shoulders are wavering;
where is he –
creeping through the cottongrass,
kicking off his shiny shoes?
We have spoken of this before,
his predilection for out-of-town girls,
had hoped he’d find the inner groom
and there’s still time.
Her mother and father are absent
like flags on a windless day
but it’s no surprise, this is no place
for a war-torn impresario and his plastic doll.
It’s the only photograph I take today.
The moment she lifts off her veil
and opens the window to let the house gasp.
He has finished with her and almost finished her,
her mouth like a split of parched earth, skin
like wattle and daub.
She so wants to jab flint in her eyes, learn
how to love the taste
of blackberries she’s not picked.
I found God under the kitchen sink one Friday.
I was just looking for a duster, but after all
isn’t God in everything? In the squeegees,
my yellow marigolds, the bag of rags?
God is in everything; and under the sink
suddenly infinite, compassionate and wise.
It’s funny, I thought, how you often find things
when you aren’t looking for them. If you asked
what I’d like to find, I might say money,
a band of merry house-elves or my daughter
dancing in at thirteen, like she would have been
this year. But God would have to do.
Bob has religion. He has said: ‘Thy will be done.’
I’d hated him for that, wanted to batter him
til my fists bled. Bob goes to church, stares up
with a vacant, trusting look – just like the dog.
Now I soften to his emptiness: poor Bob
has found nothing, or nothing has found Bob.
‘God?’ I ask, sat on the kitchen floor.
‘Maybe you could hang around the shed
with all the seed packets, buckets and pots
so Bob can find you too: properly, I mean?’
God says nothing, but I know He’s thinking:
‘I am everywhere, but have you seen the shed?’
I wonder whether God is as easily
lost as found? The shed is chock-a-block.
Bob hammers for hours with hoarded pieces
of wood, mending or breaking things apart
in that place of lost things, not like my kitchen sink;
neat and tidy, entered with an open heart.
In My Next Life
I am a beekeeper.
Lovers woo me with amber,
bright honey drops for my fingers and wrists,
but I take no husbands for the bees disapprove.
I keep a sweet kitchen ‒ the busy days
step surely to evening when my daughters curl
in breathy dreams and the dark hours sing
to each certain dawn.
One by one the girls the bees and I raise
turn their heads like sunflowers
caught by the glint in a man’s eye,
the gleam of ready coin or their own reflections
in a mirror somewhere – anywhere – else.
One by one my lovers drop out of the race
as the years pile up.
Some days I take news of a marriage or a birth
to the hives, whisper soft names
between the steady frenzy of wings.
Before the long winter when I am ill
the bees swarm into the house.
I hear them through drugged sleep,
leave out plates of autumn honey.
When I move slowly from room to room
the timber hums and the fever-soured air
is as heady as mead.
I lie down and bees surge against me,
a thrumming blanket of sticky warmth.
Oh my daughters, I whisper into the beat
and crush of wings, come home.
Their lives have spun out and away
more miles than a bee flies
and their rooms are as empty as plundered cells.
When finally they come
they’ll open the windows
and sweep out the dead.
Octopus Tank, Torbay Aquarium
She flows away from the roof coming off –
the noise, the punch of light from the torch.
Unspools and re-ravels as we watch. First
fast, then slow. A surge, and a gathering back.
A surge, and a gathering back. It lifts the hairs
on your arms and neck, makes a ballet of the tank.
I saw a ribbon of starlings once – they rose
and fell that same way, tied and re-tied Rome
in a bow, and I thought the knot at their centre
must be God. Here is God again, in this stranger,
the colour coursing her billow and flop like a weather map
crawling with storms. The current of command
from brain to brain, the crackle of travel between
all nine. As the crow flies, we are two hundred miles
from home. She is further. A thousand. An element.
Watch her fling one arm at the plate-glass, roll it
out like a rug – the kind you see in hallways,
long, embroidered – and see how the suckers
work like mouths. Opening. Closing. Imagine the hunger
of a creature with three hearts. For salt. For dark. For crab,
tossed in a tube whose catch she must pick. To keep
her sharp, the biologist tells us. She has the intelligence
of a three year old. He puts the roof on her blue-lit room,
and now she’s a stream, all arms behind her, belly lighting
each mind like a bulb. And see how she tows the tube
to a corner. How once the moon drew the riddle of her.
Clothing the linen-cupboard
Archangels hung from the washing-line – father’s tail-shirts,
rigid with frost – and the kitchen breathed like a bull
where I’d helped tie the string round the pudding
to go in the steamer. Sometimes the wrung-out angels loitered inside,
waiting for the end of the rain. They smelt of sudsy water:
much longer indoors and they’d sour. But I knew
where else they lived. As well as the beast in our house,
hawkish words cut across the light, savage, accurate, mean.
So I’d go to the linen cupboard. No obvious angels there.
But. The shelves blazed, ledged like cliffs with sheets, shirts,
nighties, table-cloths, blankets, white on multiple whites, bulkily folded,
or feathering corners and edges so precisely they made me cry.
And there were my wings. Someone shouted, the TV blared,
and someone wept, but I’d just stand and breathe, quieted
by that show of wash-day conscientiousness. And I thought,
so used to dodging between the bad and the good – and who does not? –
that here doubt had no place. It was a bit like
what they said of love: the way it cares always finds it out.
Then I’d be called, or stumbled on, or finish my errand,
fetching a towel, flicking the immersion’s switch to ON.
And I’d close the door, go practically off. I knew I had to be subversive.
Like some recusant in punitive times, I worshipped in books,
trusted in myths and transformations, anything to wing me off
from that quarrelsome house. So. How to re-imagine the linen store?
In my room not even the bible-big dictionary got it right.
Another Route to Narnia or Swannery of Sheets were also put aside.
So for years the linen cupboard extemporised as a kind of Annunciation.
Because there were lilies there, lilies of poplin and winceyette, lilies and grace.