2013 Poetry Competition Winning Poems

Here are the winning poems (first three places) in the Open Section.

Return to 2013 Competition Winners


My Mother Prays For Rain by Sue Chadd

All through the noon heat you pray for rain.
You pray as a believer does, on your knees,
invoking all water Gods, ancient and modern,
northern and southern, eastern and western.
You are desperate for moisture, not for yourself,
(though your walnut skin flakes at the touch),
nor your lost dried-up children, but for the frogs
and ferns and glutinous mud of your youth.

Each moment of your day is a prayer
uttered sibilantly from under a parched tongue.
A murmur, a stream of sound issues from you
like a brook running over mountain stones.
In the evening, when dust creates a flaming
sky, you grasp the wrinkled hands of your sisters,
and solemnly circle to the beat of joined hearts,
joined voices, joined wills, praying for rain.

At night, I know you dream of the time
your prayer was answered. Once,
was it to be just once, when the brazen light
suddenly snuffed, and beautiful black clouds
gathered over the hills towards Minety,
your upturned face wet with rain and tears,
pelted with rain for three whole weeks.
The joy in your heart as the bourne filled up,
the dance in your steps as the alder put out shoots,
the basal rosette of the cuckoo flower sent up lilac buds,
and that night, that wonderful moon-crusted night,
no longer credible, when you heard a chorus of frogs sing.



Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum “Rubrum”
by Roger Elkin

Yes, James, that’s right - and, yes,
on a fine October morning – one of those
sky-clear-as-gin days, the sun full but watery
with warmth still in it, midges yo-yoing
over the willow-pattern pool mirroring
its bridge’s vermilion and turquoise,
where carp and orf glide silently
through submarine gloom,
destination the steps

And you look up – and it’s there, this acer,
as if it’s shifted nearer to your view - its wall –
or rather fountain - of leaf (impossible
to describe precisely, you haven’t the means,
like when counting its hundreds of leaves and
running out of numbers) - and its colour – such
a palette of crimsons tipped with scarlet where
the light seeps through, or veined with maroons –
that rich texture that wears the sheen of fresh blood –
a burgundy sleekiness capturing refracted light,
making it coppery-metallic in its glistening clarity
like ruby Bohemian glass –

and you concentrate on one leaf –
pull it closely into focus, trying to do justice
to its spreadeagled presence – capture its grandeur
exactly – this stark richness, this garnet with sunlight
streaming through it – and it’s so humbly-beautiful,
this one among myriads,
this living gem

and suddenly, your gaze shifts to the gravel path
where lying – islanded, sad – is just another
fallen leaf, five-spanned like a road-flattened toad –
lifeless, dried,
its beauty gone to ground



Now Miracles Don't Happen Anymore by Peter Gillott

The bed where I was born
was the largest bed in the world
and it stood in the largest room.

On the left a side-table
supported Christian thoughts.
On the right, a mahogany wardrobe
supported the ceiling.

At the foot of the bed a dressing-table
exhibited my mother’s portrait
as she tilted her head
and brushed and brushed her multitude of hair,
then bundled up the beautiful cascade
with zig-zag hairpins.

The blind back of the mirror
faced crimson curtains,
and when they travelled by rail
to release the morning,
sunlight broke in fragments on the floor
and the wide window burgeoned
an April-green wood.

I absorbed the silent benediction
of country sounds.
I heard through hopeful singing
complaints of cart-wheels.
The pasture trembled under mighty hooves.
Wesleyan rooks preached with sore throats
from clumsy pulpits on a heavenly hill.
And faraway below the stranded house
I saw white globes of blossom in the orchard
while still innocent of snow.

At night I watched the moon
scrutinise my tiny fingers
and snuffed it with a movement of my hand.

Now miracles don’t happen any more.
But in my age of discovery
a newfound land leapt out at every turn,
and in my feathered dreams
I entertained a galaxy of angels
because my mother knew them to be there.