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honourable mentions - 2012

The library by Daniel Bick

Not the sleeping grey man in front of me, the one to my left.
Hair like summertime nettles – with a parting,
with ill-fitting trousers.
Craning over his Racing Post; pencilling his favourites
                                                    with eyes closed.
His castaway loafers and hardened black heels
and the burning words and their inert components.

             And the child with wheels, in her heels, that ghosts past.
Past the father disturbing pages of property laws
stacked high. High as his neighbour’s oak
                                                    on his land:

             And the walking headphones with metronomical origin.
Who lean past rows of severed heads and giggle at another
at their studentness and bounce
obscure messaging noises.

             And the man in double-denim and sideburns
with intent. Hair that reminds me of someone.
Flicking through the glossy, middle pictures of a biography by
James Dean! That’s who he reminds me of; with spectacles;
and hacking phlegm.

             And the Goths at the back who sit close: increasing the void.
A large hardback: an inverted roof on his lap housing her cupped palm:
working. And eyes beating, reading: Incan death masks. Leaving
sticky, with tale
                                                    for half term.

             And the security guard with jangling keys
with meaning and mobile buttons with white noise.
An oscillating frown - wheeling
a large steel box: a quadriplegic android: a deity
who accepts offerings from the till.

             And the retired man with pendulum arms – sitting
on his inflatable ring – stamping, a twelve digit
code competition coupon from a Kit-Kat wrapper.
Breathing heavily while fingers ricochet off bruised letters and numbers.
Itching haemorrhoids and smelling ear wax.

             And me with my stainless steel flask of tea. And piles of useless paper
that look busy. Peering over my balcony seat at the passing cleavage
and getting caught
by the library staff.

The Last Supper by Joe Cullen

When they came to the table
and asked what he wanted for dinner
he was hypnotised by indecision
reverie sucked him down
into the Mississippi

recalled the girl
pressing under-ripe flesh
against the coarse topography
of work clothes
in the queue at the diner

bought her a burger
took her back to the trailer
sat her down on a camp bed
covered by a Yankees eiderdown
watched the Simpsons
when she asked to use the bathroom
waited in shadows

surprised her as she dried
magenta-tipped fingers
and when it was done
he stopped her snuffles
with a pillow.

When they came again and asked
what he’d like for dinner
he told the Governor
he wanted
a home-caught lobster
pan-fried with a side of French fries
and a bowl of m & m’s.

Setting by Cathy Bryant

Teenage years in Morecambe are best experienced drunk
despite the sunsets singing through all the senses;
there’s too much poverty, and time, and murderous sands.
When the few inexplicable visitors leave and it rains
for nine months, I walk along the front by the closed-mouth shops
and remember: best - job - ever at thirteen, selling t-shirts
in a kiosk. Outdoors and facing the sea yet protected
from the elements. Mostly silent except for the odd friendly alien:
“Djav that in a black medium? Wu’ abou’ large?”
“Ken ye teel me the wee to Marrks and Spencerrrs, hin?”
M&S long gone now. All hope left in one statue.

But even back then, when the pier burned down twice
(insurance, people said knowingly, but how could they know?)
there were no jobs for long, just the sense of a heyday
set firmly in the past. Then we got fucking Noel Edmonds
and his fucking Crinkly Bottom theme park, justifying
any amount of suicide, drug addiction and general misery.
It made one wistful even for the old B.T. Busby theme park.
Then came Frontierland, a cowboy ghost town in plastic,
and the Polo Tower, a thin and desperate erection.
Unexpectedly I have an aching love for that time and place,
perhaps just for youth and the few incredible souls,
like the artist who bloomed here.

We mostly dulled ourselves, took our lives and conformed
them to death or, more sensibly and temporarily, used drugs
or drink, clasping at blurry figures for sex, our rough
unloving words like the litter on the beach as some travesty
of passion occurred. Yet still, a clutching, a hoping.
And every evening, mocked by perfection: the grand opera
Of the dying, glorious sun singing its final aria
To great acclaim. But then the sun, unlike us and the town,
Would rise again bright and strong and new in the morning.

Learning to Draw Hearts by Susan Sims

I've been contemplating hearts;
the ones I learned
to draw and label
in biology class,
left atrium, right ventricle -

the tiny ones
inked on my pencil box
around the names of boys,
who took their turn
pulling pigtails, asking for a kiss;

a girl I knew with sparrow legs
and glass blown eyes,
who learned before us all,
that a damaged heart
needs more than love
to make it whole.

High Street 4am by Daniel Bick

A gravel-faced berserker dances the macabre-
fists like knotted balls of shark’s teeth.
Stabbing, screaming, volleying his reflection with no mirror.
A riot of blood comets from his other-self.
He splatters the pavement to a fanfare that kicks spilt blood back in his face.
In the shade of blistering neon skies,
he bleeds out and waits for the street pastor’s forgiveness.

Saturday Night: High Street warriors charge with sacks full and accounts empty.
Binge nihilism giving nothing tomorrow’s headline.
They wax lyrical about Page Three while staring at your cock.
They go home; hit their wives who forgive them by morning;
she makes eggs.

Serrated winds maul and feast on the bare flesh of merry-makers-
a banquet in honour of vanity.
Warmth dances round them, like a perverse maypole-
laughing at the January moon.
In a bed-sit nearby, a fur-lined coat cries.

A river of piss travels down the incline.
A homeless musician moves his foot away from the ant’s Tsunami
and continues to play Wonderwall for the eighth time,
while dribbling protagonists clap to a Ketamine beat.

Follow the trail of yellow polystyrene
and it will lead you to the burger van man.
He stands elevated, saturated.
Brown fried onions scream for mercy.
Condiments stand like apostles on a tin cloud.
He’ll serve you his heart in a bun with a supercilious grin:
volition spoon-feeds him phantom nipples that lurk in weekend cleavage.
Molotov laughter: arbitrarily smashing windows, pissing in letter boxes,
stealing road signs, punching police, vomiting in bus stops, vomiting, vomiting.
Vomiting in the shadows shared by bin bags, dead things and one night stands.

Long Feet by Laura Seymour

As a mycologist she has developed an interest
in aliens. Aliens, she believes, scattered
fungi to earth from the sky. How else,
she argues, would they have their own kingdom
distinct from the rest of the animals and plants?

Her flat is a bats nest of diagrams
hand-drawn with a ruler
and coloured pencils,
depicting the fungus kingdom’s hierarchies.
They flutter at you when you walk past
and could eat centipedes.

She unpeels a page from her notebook
soggy with a dark lump stuck there.
A pressed heart perhaps, with a bullet hole, or anything
that might leap up to your face with an unwelcome kiss.

On closer inspection, it is a mushroom,
a patch in the centre like a bowl of rice
waiting for curry. She says, ‘Look at the earthstar,
even now its crimson navel
is signalling to its home country, an exoplanet’.

She switches on her gramophone
which plays only the tree rings on trees
sliced like records: an unsteady
music of sudden traumas, and her size 12 feet
treadle rhythmically, her toes wearing the dead-end
rings of sea shells she had picked from acres
of calcite mourning on the beach.

Later that evening, before the sea, she says
to the biofilm, rusty gossip on the water:
‘The atomic force microscope keeps in pixels
your ancient beauty, your whirling long feet
are baskets for garnering the sea’s flowers
which are photons and oblong bacteria’.

Sepia by Neil Fawcett

A carpenter crafted this.

Bevelled grains with subtle
stains, change the texture.

The mouth is whittled from willow;
thin branches lapped by the wind.

The hair is fashioned mahogany;
dark grained Swietenia.

The skin is oiled on olive wood
carved in Byzantine Bethlehem.

The eyes are of the hazel,
wand wise.

In the bright lit room
she sat, pillow propped.

Lolling to the left,
starch white waiting.

I closed the door.

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