Winning open entries

OPEN COMPETITION

1st Prize – £1000

Liz Fincham

Brexit Blues

Higgidy Foods Prize – £250

David Simpson

Overtaking on the inside

University of Brighton Prize-Work, Write, Live Writing course

Mandy Pannett

The beginning of hope

Runners up – £25

Lucy Cage

Waiting for the doctor

Jean Hall

Starlings

Robert Hamberger

Rain in Istanbul

Jacqueline Hutchinson

In the yard

Selected for special mention by Dr. Jess Moriarty

Elizabeth Mills

Other street corners

Hannah Rose Tristram

Haiku1

Brexit blues by Liz Fincham

 

…and so, with morning energy in mind

                                                      on the bus long before nine

                                                             I’m signing an on-line petition from Greenpeace

                                                                                   about pesticide use harming honey bees

 

seeing surf riding high across the empty beach

                                                               Sussex pretending to be Greece.

                                                                                                       In just seven days

                                                                                                this sea will change to a colder blue.

 

That couple on the balcony are probably still

                                               eating peaches. Hospital workers

                                                      are speed-reading thrillers next to bank clerks

                                                                            who have learned English all summer

 

as the bus takes twenty-on stops to get to the station

                                         where the piano is being played

                                                        by the man with no shoes and the hands of an angel

                                                                                                                             jazzing up our Fridays.

 

                                                        Later we will dance.

 

By six in the Italian café across the road from the laundrette

                                                the chef is coaxing rather shy English tomatoes into Italian warmth

                                                           with oil and basil although the man at the next table

                                                                    who is boasting about his watch collection

 

and who is wearing a handful of diamonds

                                    seems to have forgotten where he is

                                                         and is singing an eulogy to his Greek salad.

                                                                                                             Horiyatiki, horiyatiki, horiyatiki!

The chef is too polite (or wise)

                                to contradict him for a man with a watch

                                                                for every day of the year seems like a man who might

                                                                            not                        appreciate being challenged

 

about the correct terms for the still life on his plate.

                                           And anyway perhaps the chef too loves

                                                                                                     the sound of the Greek song.

                                                                                                             Horiyatiki, horiyatiki, horiyatiki!

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Overtaking on the inside by David Simpson

 

‘Something in you was killed,’ is not said very often by a vicar to her husband right after they’ve bought a mower at B and Q.

‘Something’ is sounded out as D. E. D., terminated, stopped at a set of traffic lights behind a Honda and in front of a Renault.

‘No I didn’t say killed. I said it was lost, something was lost,’ is your reply.

Ok so a few jokes disappear but they’re traced to a commune in my hippocampus, next to erotic thoughts, goat’s cheese and Lou Reed.

Details are flaky: we’re into the red amber and green of trammadol’s long-term effects, straight on into a spark taken away by all the biopsies, scans, and blood tests.

‘If I’m doing forty, what speed’s he doing, fifty?’

Chill, baby, chill; after eighteen months I know all about speed, nerve-blockers, double dessert spoonfuls of liquid morphine pumped into me when they think the cancer is overtaking on the inside as you move into a lower gear at the roundabout, where it’s second left for my forest funeral.

‘You are joking.’

‘I don’t know fifty people.’

‘You do.’

‘It’s far too many for a John Innes Number 2 self-compost in the woods.’

‘See what I mean?’ you say,

‘they’ve come back.’

The car indicator’s tick, tick, tick is the drip, drip, drip of pain, never all at once, twice, but on and on,

prepared in batches with a life-long sell by date to drip, tick, drip, tick, spot by spot, drip, tick;

‘But you still look sad,’ you say, drip, tick, drip;

‘There’s a parking space,’ mirror, signal tick, drip, tick, manoeuvre, drip, tick, drip;

‘Sad is my initials in reverse order.’

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The beginning of hope    by Mandy Pannett

 

1

Tanya, my hope, a tumult of birds from the loudest to the tiniest

picks and strums the chords of morning

       wide awake with a song.

And I’ve been dreaming of you again, dozy in my bed

with longing, though you are not here.

 

2

If you could see me now: my face is sadder than Yeats’

Magi who stumbled underneath a star –

   worn out, dissatisfied and pale,

half out of faith with a dry old quest that would never find

conclusion, even in death.

 

3

Twenty minutes he had, that Irish poet, twenty minutes of epiphany

in a coffee shop, with a backcloth of knives

  and a spoonful of cream in his cup.

What did he see through the window steam, light

swishing past, almost

 

4

too rapid for perception, an angel disguised in a waterproof hood,

the sudden and shiny gates of heaven in an

opening, cold wet door?

Girl, I adore you to the point of madness – although, you still insist,

I love only the idea of you, love

 

5

your absence more. Tanya, my hope, my beginning of hope,

how wildly we cling to our memory

 of memories, say illusion

is real, narrate a new tale with us at the heart, gather in

our own small visions.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

WAITING FOR THE DOCTOR by Lucy Cage

(Martlets, Brighton)

 

On the morning their mother died

I drove the kids to the hospice.

The roads tickered with traffic

and the whole way there they yakked

about last night’s Doctor Who, belted up

safe in the knowledge that the universe

has its rules. At the lights I drummed

my thumbs on the steering wheel,

a talismanic paradiddle against time

hopeless as tissue to dam floods.

 

Her room was unchanged, no clocks

stopped, her absence a snowfall

settling itself over vinyl chairs, not yet

the howling horror it would become.

Everything was still so close: the hope

of recovering what was lost, the tender

proximity that means the dead leave

themselves behind for a while

like breath on a pane. The kids

did their colouring in and waited

for the Doctor.

 

I was glad for the summoning:

he’d hold back despair, he’d keep the story

rattling along on teleological tracks.

You can sit and watch the blurs

out of the window

you can have a cup of tea.

It is often better that way.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

STARLINGS   by Jean Hall

Summer never waited for us.

An old Sussex warning:

the first frost is on the tail

of the last horse at Goodwood.

 

Forty summers packed up

away from approaching autumn’s bite

with all our memories on the wings

of departing starlings

 

shape-shifting flocks in setting skies

swirling black coils around the cathedral spire

practice forays, swooping displays

balletic murmurations yo-yoing into dusk

 

tempting the evening sun to call them west.

Four miles away truculent seas pounded shingle

day after day until the tide went out

beach cricket on our golden jigsaw

 

seaweed-scored playground

sun sliding down tallowed waves

an occasional outing

for our ninety-year old neighbour

 

who’d never been in the sea

had only left Sussex once

tea in our beach-hut refuge

reviving brandy or whiskey after a swim

 

Year after year of long English summers

custodians of happy days, days of contrast

hot sun, lashing unrepentant rain

dripping lanes pinked by Albertines

 

porches buried in festoons of honeysuckle

starry jasmine filling scent-laden air

parted by sudden warmth.

Rags of clouds peered over the South Downs

 

in the dim acres, mocking trolls

great masses of cloud cumulus

dove-grey cloud islands

unknown symbols at the time.

 

A mist of twirling lime seeds

caught in gusts of spiralling westerlies

over fields set in a grey-brown sulk

as starlings took flight as we looked on.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

RAIN IN ISTANBUL by Robert Hamberger

 

She tells me There’s rain in Istanbul,

so I buy an umbrella for my daughter

the day before she flies again. I figure

black with small pink butterflies will

open beautifully outside the hotel,

each splash fizzling like the wettest fire.

She says I want to go everywhere.

My fear can’t clip her wings. May this frail

umbrella shelter her from harm

in Paris, New York, Hondura, Thailand.

My undaunted daughter flies safely home

five days later. Rain fell outside the Grand

Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, the Baths where a balm

of water dropped soft coins into her hand.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

In The Yard. By Jacqueline Hutchinson

Her bones are buried in the mud
in the strong folds of the earth
and winter climbs over her like a vine
and clasps her neck along with time
which has ceased for her
but still she persists
marching through my mind and smiling
still dancing, ageless.
And the men with the seen it all grins
loom over her with their shovels
and they flatten her with mows
and now she is undressed
and then suddenly clothed.
Alone with the others at night
under the filament of stars.

Then spring creeps up on her
though she does not know it
and sends its light down to her African roots
which she would straighten out
with chemical perm
and still she sways those roots at me
and laughs her serious laugh
in her deep wood tones.

And then summer is here
and I water her grave with my tears
which are larger than raindrops and more salty.
And youth roam around the stones
intoning the names and nicking the flowers.

One autumn day I bend down and scrabble to find her
wanting the revolting truth
until the ladies with the wide brimmed hats stare
and ask me if I am alright dear
and I say yes and nod happily

You remember how well I acted
how well I lied
don’t you ?

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

 

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Other Street Corners. By Elizabeth Mills

 

I wait a long time for you,

Watching the narrow edge of kerb

That shines from the rain.

 

A jewel in this downbeat town,

Where you don’t put your foot.

No doubt it was here

We arranged to meet.

 

Next to the launderette,

Where the speechless couple

Watch the drums go round,

Eating chips from a cone.

 

The bus that you would catch

Goes out of town.

 

From the upper deck

Passengers look down

Into the windows

Of the last house.

 

The cinema where I lean

Recently shut down.

My stolid figure obscuring

The poster of a year-old film.

 

Maybe you are on other street corners;

But you are not here.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Haiku 1 by Hannah Rose Tristram

 

She reported it.

He denied it. Therefore it

“didn’t happen.”  SHUSH.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Main Shot Credit :  Sam Sesemann / www.sesty.com