We have put him in the cellar for safekeeping, by Rowan Lyster

We have put him in the cellar for safekeeping, by Rowan Lyster of Bristol was picked in Joint Fourth Place in our 2021 Open Competition by judge Rishi Dastidar.

This is what Rishi had to say about Rowan’s poem:

In ‘We have put him in the cellar for safekeeping’ by Rowan Lyster, a – perhaps misguided? – family have decided that for his, and the nation’s, benefit, David Attenborough must stay with them… whether this stay is willing or not is never made entirely clear, which gives the poem its unsettling power, and an opportunity for its bathos to paint darker shades: “Day 10, and somewhere behind the buckets / and deflated footballs, he has found earwigs.” That the poem is also a witty reversal on ideas of how we capture nature to preserve it only adds to its attractions.



We have put him in the cellar for safekeeping

When the door is opened, David Attenborough
blinks at the unfamiliar light, hair rippling
like dandelion fluff in the cool off the breezeblocks.
He shuffles backwards out of the way,
bumping into the faded camp bed.
David Attenborough has given up coffee
but Mum brews a new pot hourly anyway.
Dad builds him a table from Blue Planet DVDs,
removes the full, cold cups every evening.
The pink has begun to leave Attenborough’s cheeks.
Day 10, and somewhere behind the buckets
and deflated footballs, he has found earwigs.
Clasping a jam jar, he croons to himself,
soft as the brush of their legs against glass.




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