1st, Open Category 2006 - Ginny Baily

Mornings Like These

On mornings like these when the autumn blue dissolves
into the harder brighter light that edges winter's dark
and where, in washed-out emptiness, white transition,
we skirt each other with cold politeness, sharp
and brittle as consumptives at the sanatorium
who cough and rub their hot red eyes
in the thin searing air, who ignore the telltale
stains on handkerchiefs and all the other signs;

On mornings like these I imagine the silence after Eve
bit the apple, the dirty-white cloth of silence falling,
wrapping their garden like a shroud; and Adam's sheen,
new-won, as if he had slid into the serpent's skin
just as the snake slid out, while Eve, still naked,
watches the man wriggling to stretch the membrane,
to shape it to his form, but does not yet know
that from now on and forever, she is to blame;

On mornings like these when my jaw aches with the damp
of things unsaid and the other side of the room
is further than the moon, I dream of slipping back in time,
wearing my nakedness like a peach its bloom,
washed backwards by the stream of undone years
that smoothes my face, ungrits my teeth and drops me ripe
into apple-scented air where I lick my guilty lips
and seize again the fruit, to take a bigger, bolder bite.

 

Judge's comments

This poem stood out from the whole, for its lyric intensity, its powerful handling of image, its brave seriousness, and its individual touch. The language and ideas here work together beautifully. I like the repeated rhetorical device at the start of each of these stanzas, and then the quick immersion into fully developed, emotive, and mythic ideas. The ‘cold politeness’ of the specific relationship in the first stanza is just right, with its delightfully odd simile of ‘consumptives at the sanatorium’ that grows into a wonderful extended metaphor. The second stanza is unafraid of tackling big mythic subject matter, but does so with a refreshingly new approach; the man sliding into the snake’s skin ‘wriggling to stretch the membrane’, and the beautiful understatement of its last line. The final stanza develops these concerns, reminding us of the first stanza’s particular relationship, but extending the parallels further through the Biblical myth, to the universals of ‘things unsaid’, and the powerfully sensuous image of wearing ‘nakedness like a peach its bloom’. The poem deals with memory, desire, dreaming, gender roles, and that powerful existential desire to ‘seize again the fruit’ and – what a challenge! – to take a ‘bigger, bolder, bite’. A real pleasure to read.

Andy Brown