2014

 1st Prize: John Foggin

At Tarskavaig

Washed up on a rucked-rug  shoreline
with floats, fish-boxes, trawlermen’s  gloves,
fertiliser sacks, kelp, clots of wool,
the cockle –pickers. Peat-cured, with ruined teeth,
long, dirty nails, eyes as dark as iodine.

They tinkers. Och. says Effie. You’d do well
look to the barns, and count the spades,
and what did they ask you for,
those women, old coats belted with rope,
rubber boots patched with gaffer tape,
hair like seaweed, when they tapped
on the windscreen, brown as selkies.

For a light only, the bright ember,
blue smoke blown on the wind, the spit
of rain off the sea, and thanks we’re away
down the road and done with the day,
with turning stones, and bladderwrack,
browsing the cold shore for cockles,
to fill a knuckly net.....iron, amber, cobalt, rust.

What’s to be done with Tarskavaig tinkers
who come up out of the peat or the sea?
And when the light goes, where do they turn?

 

 2nd Prize: Robin Houghton

Gifted

When the last twig-wing snaps
you ask to be fed. Just this:
one single gape so wide it turns

your pale head inside-out
and threatens to burst blood
until every thread of moss

and every egg in the tree
foresees defeat. You demand
more worms and I must feed

you from first note to last
murmuration. I am tired, leaf-
thin, not broken-spirited

but warted by time and canker
like the oaks’ awkward elbows.
I slow-hop, my heart is shrunk

to a breadcrumb. You were given
to us and we couldn’t resist
your singular strangeness.

I would do the same again,
despite the reason you went bad –
a glitch in the mothering.

 3rd Prize: Emily Wills

South View Juniors

I’m back there, after uncountable Septembers, taking Miss
on that walk to school. Don’t step on the cracks
I hiss, but too late, she’s sunk by stilettos, so I haul her out
by the scruff of her foreign name. We don’t stop at the phone box
ringing as usual for number ten, but tiptap and laceup
past the shivery nets of Mr B, who flew too low and never speaks
because of the Japs and the gas and We will remember them.

I hassle her on past the boys with nits and rashy knees
who call her Nasty, and into the alley, where the man in the mac
may or may not be hiding something. Later, she’ll have Paul caned
for messing his book and losing his mother
and I’ll watch him cry like a girl, and I’ll dig my arm
with an inky nib so I’ll always remember this. But now
we knock softly for Susie, and hoodsup and on,

just ahead of the ringlet girls with their Persil socks
their Chinese burns, none of us wondering where Miss lives
or who loves her. Look at the spiderwebs breathes Susie,
and we make Miss pause, a sort of prayer, for after the rain
even the chain-link glitters and blinks with bluegold light.
But already she’s blotting and tutting the sop
on her too-tight skirt, stalking past us into the playground

with its grazes and shrieks, its low flying planes,
its toxic gas. She makes it indoors as far as her desk,
and we’ll forget her instantly, we’ll leave her there
powdering the runnels of her face, not speaking,
now I think of it, to anyone but us.