First Place: Framed, Siobhan Campbell
Because he had a large growth on his neck they called him Dinny of the unborn twin and the worst of them asked if he ever voted for labour. When the ships came in there were containers to lift with the new- fangled thing-uma- jig that took away the jobs of fourteen dockers. Once a smallish wooden pallet that got sent the wrong way from Guyana. Pineapples, smelling to high heaven. The scent of the Caribbean, though we argued about whether Guyana was South American or part of the Anglo-Carib proper. Sparks who had BBC World Service said it was; he’d heard a long-boat-man from there tell how they roasted coconuts on fires till they burst with the heat of their milk, making a splatter that they ate all up, washed off the stickiness in the tide. But there was a reason to begin this… yes, the question of the unborn and the rights of same. Well, we brought Dinny in, all scrubbed up, to the minister. Frame was his name, from somewhere down west where they’ve those long towns built toward the worship hall and they’re trained to stare straight and to think straight. Reverend, we said, there’s a growing boy out the back of this man’s neck and we think, as you are the upstanding and the outstanding you should now stand up for the rights of the yet to be born and get it out for us, yes, get it out. Well, he’s still looking at us with one eye forlorn as a burnt out tree and the other whipped clean to the whiskey. We turned him that day, it’s true as god, and he left for Scotland once the spring came in and didn’t even have a farewell do for his leaving. Somewhere in the outer or the inner Hebrides they say, there’s a squinter of a man who was once of the cloth and his crossing is and his crossing was and his crossing always will be forever and ever
Second Place: Domonic, Claire Askew
This time of year I think of you the most: springtime, when I'm in love with everything. Behind the bar you liked on Candlemaker Row
the kirkyard laburnums are budding; come the summer they'll be yellow Texas hairdos dropping pods of blossom on the old graves.
I'm amazed that I still observe the days since you went wherever you went; that I still want to tell you things. Like:
I look for you in crowds of out-of-towners, and in spring sometimes there'll be a man who makes me pause, heart spilling its blooms.
But there was only ever one of you, born with a misspelled name even Google corrects. Like: see? I'm searching.
Like: I've learned there are collectors who want only broken things – porcelain so loved that when it smashed, the cracks were sealed with gold.
That's how I was broken by your going: although it was a wrecking, it was also a making-better. Like: thank you.
Like: what I'd choose to do with you right now is go to the bar in the big white afternoon, no one else drinking, the window seat a giftbox
of jewelled light. Laburnum light: amber in the tall glasses lit up like bulbs. And after, I could walk away, every break and closure glowing.
Special Commendation: Glass Eye, Wes Lee
The real one lost to the North Sea or so we were told. You served on submarines – I imagine you in the dark, a long way down, listening for that echoing ping. You would stab at our fingers with a fork when we tried to pinch food from our plates; our mother’s clench at that blinkered stare we forgot most of the time. You carried a wad of rolled up notes and bought me my first LP: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. And when we left for good you cried so hard you had to take out your false teeth. Our mother was amazed, she had never seen you cry before. You found it hard to smile: a strangled grimace as if a genie would forever be released. And when you trimmed the rabbit’s claws, outside one afternoon on a sweltering day, you pushed your glasses up on your nose: sweating, clipping, snipping – you went on, ignoring our pleas, all protests – blood, red in its fur, but we could see you wanted to stop.