The winning poems
1st Prize: Clive McWilliam
Turner at my door one night- a quiver
of brushes and enough paper to blow us out
to sea- The weather is fine for the boat to sail-
we’ll catch moon’s flower tonight!
I push him out
on the water-
one hundred strokes
until we’re lonely mid-stream-
Chelsea floating from us in a dream
and moon so close
our voices bounce back changed.
He holds up a sheet to the sky-
Bonny face- maybe this
is the best way to catch you.
Stares till the moon starts to wax
in his mind
and pull on his hand like the tide.
Through brushfuls and bladefuls of river water
I hold my boat to the stars-
our feet awash
with versions of the sky.
Already, sun is pouring over this night’s work-
reclaiming his fugitive light from the page.
Gaze over washed out clouds,
trace the ghost of a line
or a tower’s frayed edge-
find a fleck of moonlight lodged
in the paper’s grain.
2nd Prize: Virginia Astley
Things You Have Slaughtered
A blackbird sings in the night and I wonder
where he can be singing – since the ash
was felled last summer, and in the dark I return
to earlier, to this afternoon, when we stood beneath
dripping yews, between the church and your house,
talking of bills, and your failing relationship.
You clutched a plastic bag, blood smeared,
as was the back of your hand. Following my eyes
you opened the bag and spoke: A squirrel,
I have to shoot them, vermin, they come into the house.
I remember you, years ago, showing my daughter
a blackbird in the freezer, frost gathering around
unseeing eyes. I listen to this blackbird now,
his fluid song spreading across dark meadows.
3rd Prize: Helena Goddard
The wheatear, the English ortolan
The Eastbourne sky could hardly contain them,
so numberless and every bird so shy
it took fright at a cloud, as if its flight
had dipped under the belly of a bear
about to lie down. The wheatear would drop
to the ground, cranny itself in the mouth
of one of the tunnels cut by shepherds,
hop to the horsehair noose at the end.
Bauble bodies were threaded on crow quills,
sold by poulterers from Lewes to London,
served as gobbets wrapped in vine leaves,
burst like buds. One day in 1665,
a shepherd trapped a hundred dozen,
divested himself of his smock, his wife
of her petticoat, to sack the tumbling balls
of fat, whose alarm call was titreu titreu,
whose song was far far, two descending
notes on my daughter’s recorder,
her raised fingers a cockerel comb
of concentration, a clamp against the holes.