First place: Today Cromer is Moscow, Christopher James
Today Cromer is Moscow
Seagulls preside on the spiresand onion domes of Cadogen Road.There are snowdrifts in the belfryof the parish church. In the Hotel de Paris;they’re serving Rassolnik soupand vodka so cold it makes your glasssmoke with ice. In an upper window,the ghost of Galina Ulanova looks outacross the waves balanced on a single toe.At the end of the pier the oligarchsare watching The Tremeloes sing Kalinkawhile on the seafront, crab fishermandance the troika in their wellingtons.Ice-cream men wear bearskin hatsand play Stravinsky to summonthe children from their homes,because today Cromer is Moscow.In the lighthouse they’re readingPushkin and playing chess to pass the time.Down on the beach old cosmonautsskim stones into the sea whilebeneath their feet, the facesof the tsars are imprinted in the sand.
Second place: Visitation Rights, Sarah Askew
With my rucksack from Argos,and my hoodie from Gap Kids,I am a miniature traveller in navy blue.
Dad meets me at the arrivals gate,grinning like a plasticine model.My mobile doesn’t work here;you will be checking the live flights online.
His house is full of wooden statues,ethnic throws and food with foreign
labels.I am afraid to ask if the phone workslike it does at home.
I sleep on a mattress on a hand-made rug,the sound of his voice- and hers-rising up through the floorboards.
We ride trams, visit parks, museums;I buy postcards of printsthat I think you will like. But I know
on the return flight, just before we
land,I will slip them inside the flight safety
cards;souvenirs of the place he left us for,that you do not need to see.Sarah Askew
Special Commendation: In Seville, Caroline Adams
When living alone it is easy to overlook beating the carpets and airing the linen, she said, closing the shutters on the jangle of trams from the streets below, the clattering hooves and the distant neighing. Forgive the disorder, she said.
And the shutters snapped shut, shrinking the light to strips of gold that lay in ribbons across them.
They drank tea, its amber hue danced with tiny leaves, such a strange flavour in the fluted glasses. The cups are all broken, but the tarts are fresh, and the oranges not too bitter, she said, brushing crumbs from his lips with her thumb.
Later came a knock at the door. Forgive the disturbance, she said, winding the sheet around her. Tradesmen call when the sun has dropped. And Maxim concurred. His farriers thought nothing of shoeing the horses at night, he said, watching her fasten rosemary to the knocker, as the sheet fanned in a tail behind her.
In the small hours, when only the dead speak, the moon drew phosphorescent bars across their bodies as they lay on the couch and she asked his forgiveness no longer. The trams were silent and no callers came. Neither did they speak of tradesmen, nor servants, nor of their own luminosity, nor the dangers of moonlight, its enchantment, its bane.