1st Prize: John Foggin

Julie

According to the specialists you died six months ago
and I like sitting with you, proving there’s an afterlife
as we roll cigarettes, you perched like a wire bird
up on your kitchen top beside the angel
that I made for you before I knew you weren’t alive.

Your fridge’s crusted like a wreck, with magnets
and pictures of BobDylan, and you show me
that programme that Patti Smith had signed for you
not knowing you’d been applauding from the Underworld.

You make me laugh each time you tell the phone
it can get stuffed because it’s your mad mother
who will not believe that you’re not with us any more.

Your eyes grow bright in your dead woman’s face,
then sink, then glow like cigarettes, like the ironworks
up the coast, or the small lights on the cobles
tied up and tilted on the mud; like the strange flares
from the stack high up on Boulby Cliff, where the shaft
goes down a whole dark mile of ammonites, and heads off
far away beneath the weight of oil rigs, and sunken ships,
and shoals of cod, and all the grey North sea.

2nd Prize: Pam Job

Benjamin Britten Walks Out in Spring

He’s early enough to note a nightingale,
charming its way into the day with a titter
and a chink, its song condensing
into melody, sweet after dog fox barks.
The dark swoop of a late barn owl
drags away the dawn over the heath
and its cry files the air as it glides.

Ben has ears that pick apart the songs of birds,
fillet each note from its flesh of sound,
and now, on the anvil of his ear,
he lays out the chiffchaff’s promise;
its two metal notes shuttling to and fro
on the loom of light, weave a beat
to hammer out the heart of spring.

From reeds along the marsh, Ben sifts out
whispers while their seed heads sweep the breeze
and on the sand path, a squirrel darts,
jumps aside with a whirr and snaps its teeth.
Ben listens to the gaps between each sound,
which amplify the note that’s gone, the one to be,
and shape the salt-laced air he breathes.

On the beach, pebbles clink, percussive,
and a slither of shells fills each tread,
sounds spliced by a herring gull’s whoop
as it snatches a fish from a wave’s break.
An avocet, its cabaret suit of black and white,
delays Ben’s eye as it dips and wades.
He hums counterpoint to its tin-whistle cry.

Home now, he harks back to the nightingale,
hears a cadenza; a cello perhaps,
once itself a tree, picks up the notes,
rolls them round in curves of wood, suspends them
up in air for the bird’s throat to catch again;
above, below, between, behind, the sounds come,
as they should, like the best kind of love.

3rd Prize: Jen Campbell

merlasses

Down the chippy they call w’sirens. Blazin like
red fire engines the lot of us. Rucksacked tails, brushin
along the backs of bus seats. Gannin to the waves.
Sometimes I swear I’m movin, but I ain’t. Me dad says
I’m well-fard, and it’s all a girl is good for.
Me tail’s bright purple, all the sequins yammerin.
There are four of us. We do it in divers’ pools -
they tret us right, there. Changin after swimmin class
so as I’m half in mesel. Half out - me mouth all pouts
and glass eyeballs. Swimmin yem.
The water’s goose flesh against wor plastic fins.


The lads pay to watch us. Caitlin’s pink and Tara’s
red-burn cheeks, canny near blowin. We play at drowin.
Plodge until wor lungs are blue. In stories we was
sailors’ dreams. Rock-slammin and them huntin for the zip.
Now we’re slot machines. Holdin wor breath.
To fit inside, we wrap wor legs tight-like with elastic bands.
Costumed. Show us it! they yell, banging fists.
I cannit breathe.
Me heart is pulsin, pulsin. The fish-scaled chlorine.
How much for it? They clout. Their five pounds notes against the glass.