Poetry Centre

ESL category

  • First place: Memory Talkies, Jonaki Ray

    Memory Talkies

    On the road leading away from Florence,
    a woman is screaming at a man with a Picasso face.
    Shaking his head and half-shutting the door,
    he walks inside the house,
    leaving her alone at the stoop, smoking.
    She is trembling like the skeleton
    of a snail being picked clean by a colony of ants.
    The driveway leads to a gate
    and a child is attempting to swing it open,
    his face a smeared version of a Botticelli angel.
    Old men in Kolkata, reading newspapers, smoking,
    and solving the world’s problems
    are facsimiling in the suburbs of this city,
    while Cypress trees fingers point skywards, apportioning blame.
    Buttery light pouring over miles of yet-to-be-harvested farms
    with stakes at their hearts dusks the days to evenings.
    In Montefioralle, a woman named Margherita offers me
    a gooseberry-colored plum, while her husband tugs
    at her attention like clothespins before a thunderstorm.
    I am back in the city that led a crushed Independence Mutiny,
    failing with my mother in convincing my father
     to let her go for a conference, alone.
    Who will take care of everything,
    he asks, even now,
    a dozen years after her dying.

    Jonaki Ray

  • Second place: Halcyon, Vasiliki Albedo


    When I give my father my poem he
    translates it to Greek.
    Each word teethes in his mouth.
    He insists on the unknown: pree-ci-pai-ce,
    I explain: γκρεμός, an abrupt,
    rugged mountain-side.
    In the afternoon shadow I see him again
    as I did as a girl in the top-heavy dark
    of his office: lofty, daunting,
    like a gargoyle poring over his law books.
    He continues, points out as he thinks
    a verb is missing. When he stumbles
    on ‘halcyon’ he stops and Iooks at me.
    Smiling, he recites the myth of Alcyone,
    describes how Aeolus reined in
    his winds for a week every year to make space
    for his kingfisher-daughter to lay her eggs
    by the placid sea. I nod
    but persist on the nuance of the English
    word I intended. Calm, he repeats
    and starts again with the myth.
    When he comes to the silence at the end of the page
    it’s like tuning into the static after a glance
    at a report card or an indifferent Christmas gift.
    I knew almost all the words, he says.

    Later, there’s a tone to his voice I’ve never heard
    when he calls to discuss metaphor.

    Vasiliki Albedo

  • Special Commendation: Notes For A Canary Fancier, Iulia David

    Notes For A Canary Fancier

    When you first bring the canary home,
    let it enter the cage by itself, let it hop
    from the travelling box to its new frame:
    real-life, four-chambered heart pouring
    and nothing.

    Call it home, this shiny home, its teeth
    bare not in hostility, but in eternity;
    none of its four walls are missing –
    let it enter voluntarily, leap closer
    to the soft wood perches, a tray for food,

    another for water. Let it breathe,
    pass by the mirror,
    surface its own loneliness, sink
    into the air of your house
    surrounding its house.

    Look at its feet.
    Find what they know
    more than two strays praying.
    Find how you can't unsee them –
    praying, blessed as they are,

    with moist biscuit and egg.
    Now find the door and close it.
    Now wait. The yellow wait
    is when you bring Africa
    to your living room

    and wait. For the song will come.
    And in one of the chambers
    she will wake up
    and show you
    her whipping scars.

    Iulia David