Poetry Centre

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  • First Place (Open): the thing about the eating disorder wing is:   by Katie O'Pray

                everyone’s shit smells exactly the same

    something tired and pruned inside us

    now shoehorned and swelling

    with yoghurts   cereal    4 cups of milk

    I will tapeworms from the white rings they leave on the table

                distraction! how many green things can you name

    cabbage           broccoli           peppermint tea

    come on now   a nurse warns  less with the food      too much         

    time spent on that elephant in the room                     

    the apple in his mouth and the oil

    pooling at his neck       the gristle you can’t shake

                12 minutes left to complete this meal

    sometimes I hold my tongue so tense     its quivered muscle  

    I suck my own teeth loose

    I am never clearing my throat anymore                        I just speak

    we are all here rotting    a little bit slower than we were before

                this morning it was all alarms and stretchers   

    dietician running down the corridor    

    one empty seat at the breakfast table      no one found

    the answer to the riddle on the blackboard      no one asked

    any questions               we just played games

    distraction!       we just made cards

    no one wrote anything inside them      just cut

    out stars with safety scissors    stuck sequins before

    lunch   & after kneaded clay   into plant pots

    not all granted out       to the garden   distraction!

                at tea    we sucked the worry out of our molars

    like sunflower seeds

    sat down to our dumplings

    carried on chewing

  • Second Place (Open): Little Cuckoo by Morag Anderson


    Your mother fought, I'm sure,
    but lost to slack white jaws—
    tongues sharp and thin as fish bones.  

    There is no 6am tick of water
    warming pipes in this care home,
    damp and foul as rotting colons.  

    I would feather a nest for you,
    Little Cuckoo, bring a feast of worms,
    but my blackbird beak is crammed with stones.

  • Special Commendation (Open): Thirteen Versions of the Day After Our Abortion by Amelia Loulli 

    In this version I grow a lemon tree between my legs. You move me to a window because citrus
    trees need light. In this version I wrap myself in a golden fleece, start a bonfire in the back yard,
    eat baby insects like air. In this version you give me a piglet - two eyes, a bald round head,
    rhythmically kicking its arms and legs like an accordion playing a polka. In this version you
    move next door and I write to all the women you left. Love letters that become birds once read,
    so they don’t have to decide what to do with them next. In this version I get my pilot’s license
    while you teach my son to dance. Wearing an aviation suit and Earhart goggles I sit in the
    cockpit, still on the ground, watching you both spinning. In this version we don’t get pregnant
    in the first place, instead your swimmers take a leap, swim the channel, make it all the way to
    France where they quickly pick up the language, open a small boulangerie and cycle to work
    every day. I eat eggs for breakfast for a week. In this version you buy me a convertible car. I
    drive on long empty roads with the top down, my hair wrapped in a red chiffon scarf. The seats
    are black leather, wipe clean, just in case, you say. In this version your mum cooks me dinner.
    Fifteen courses of the Corinthians and a jug of the Song of Songs. I keep my elbows off the
    table. She spoons verses on my plate while stroking my face. In this version I discover you
    stole the baby while I was sleeping. You keep it in a pickling jar. You tell me this is in case I
    change my mind. In this version you plait my hair. You take my trinity and weave it, soft in
    your hands, like feathers, you say, as I start tapping my claws on the wet soil. In this version
    you feed me your dog. Flesh cubed, marinated in virgin oils, roasted. We sit at the table looking
    at each other but never, ever our plates. In this version you hold my hair back at the side of the
    clinic road. I heave my organs up and out of my mouth onto the curb. Oops there’s a kidney.
    Oh and another, you say. In this version you are bleeding. I don’t want to be dramatic but you
    are bleeding like someone let the bath water out onto the floor, you are bleeding, the colour
    fleeing you, leaving behind nothing but pale foam and bubbles.