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Read the winning poems in the 2014 Dromineer Poetry Competition. Judge Matthew Sweeney


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winners in the Dromineer 2014 Poetry Competition judged by Matthew Sweeney

 

1st   A Blackfriary Burial by Michael Farry, Meath.

                                                                                            

2nd   Borderlands by Roisin Kelly, Cork 

                                                                      

3rd   Dream Notes by Pearse Murray, Albany, NY, USA,

                                                                    

HC   The Chase by Simon Lewis, Carlow 

  

 

A Blackfriary Burial

Infants take much longer, their bones fragile,

faint, more difficult to dig. I spent two

days with make-up brush and trowel, while

 

my workmate recorded progress, drew

each bone of the emerging skeleton.

When I had finished, every scrap on view,

 

I joined the other diggers, who one by one

had left their cuts to stand above it, stare

in admiration or remembrance. Some

 

judged age, agreed on two. I didn’t care

by then, worn out, spent that restless night

brushing soil from friendly skulls, staring

 

at their smiles. Next morning, back at the site

I analysed my finds tray, shocked to count

so many shroud pins, tarnished and slight,

 

ten from my burial. We searched and found

the books suggested that the norm was four

and our past experience on this ground

 

confirmed that. It was worrying. Although

I had been methodical, I may have missed

an infant, failed to notice the ghostly

 

trace of decay. But it was time to lift,

bag bones for later lab work. On my knees

that evening, packing the final flimsy

 

pieces in their labelled bags, I realized

the care desolate parents took to wrap

their transient gift, how well they sealed

 

its shroud with abundant pins, to equip

the body for its long and silent wait

until we reverently raised it up.

 

 

Borderlands

The soldiers who searched our car smiled at a pink fairy

at the side of the road.

 

But fifteen minutes earlier, as we’d approached the border

my mother had braked, and yelled at the boys

messing with a toy gun in the backseat

do ye want to get shot at?

 

I’d smoothed the folds of my glittering dress

tapped my wand against the window, beyond which

cement factories lurched against afternoon light.

 

Those towers coughed the breath of dragons.

At their feet the old man sat

outside his thatched cottage, smoking his pipe in the garden

winked as we passed, knowing me

 

for a creature like himself

who could move between two realms.

He was the gatesman in disguise, and signalled that the soldiers

could let my family through from the northern meadows

 

to the marshier south, where I’d hide from the bog-witch

with her once-beautiful red lips

muttering spells of her own to remind everyone

how young she used to be.

 

The land where the old man lived

was no land at all: it was grey, with grey factories

and grey outposts

but the cottage door was bright, bright blue.

 

Later, the outposts were dismantled, the cottage

abandoned, while the factories remained

just to keep an eye on things.

 

Now I have no need for disguise

but when I cross the border, I always look

towards the empty cottage: paint flaking from its window panes

with lorry-shudder on the lanes, and every year

a bit more thatch has fallen in.

 

 

           

Dream Notes

I take some guitar notes out for a walk in the woods

and introduce them to the notes sung by birds and

breezing leaves whose timbre makes for sweet magic.

 

They want to float further into the deep green

and we go along to a babbling brook

where we dance giddy on the spangling splash of stones.

 

Excited, they cajole me into going afar.

Now we wade into a wide river stretch

and under a slivered swaying willow-caress.

 

We float towards the estuarine marsh

where we sing with the Blue Heron’s primitive squawk

and glide off its soft wing-beat.

 

Then into the roaring deep blae-blue:

I get lost from undertows of tone-shifts

and whales wailing sky-high their water notes.

 

I fend off punching waves of surfs

and somehow return to the timbral woods

where there they are: scoring notes with the birds.

 

A shaft of sun-wash, butterflies cruise at the wood’s edge,

a field of bluebell blue tremble silent perforations

and the notes all waft away to the south or perhaps Heaven—

 

with the wind threshing gold leaves and leaving me

awake and longing to capture that music again

so as to face the coming days of winter-cold hell.