Winning Poems 2016

Bridge painting 1






Image above – The bridge in an old city © courtesy of Ihan Balaikin

Congratulations to our two 2016 winners!


First prize:

The Bog Pool (by Noel King)

In the middle of a purple bog in North Kerry,

Joseph stripped and dunked himself into a black pool,

careful to keep his elbows fixed on the side,

not knowing how deep this was.


His toes felt a chill that relieved the heat through his body.

He never dunked his head then, but after climbing out,

would kneel on the side and, holding a breath, eyes closed,

plunge his head into the blackness.


He often did this. Another turf cutter

came upon him once, his balls hanging in the air.

The man thought him mad but understood the need to cool off.

Joseph felt sick at the shame of being caught.


Afterwards he would rest his buttocks on a weave

of a strip from a basket his mother had thrown out.

This he used too to kneel on when he went to pray.

He liked to pray out here, aloud.


At home, prayer was always in silence,

although he heard his mother’s nightly murmur

in the room next to his, as natural a sound

as his single life dictated.


Second prize:

All At Sea (by Harry Gallagher)

A tender teenaged palm presses

overripe skin against railings,

to save a tumbleback into traffic,

the old boy being all at sea.


When oysters were his world

when nursemaids were for infants

yowling at night, their mummies

moneyed against the ocean’s call.


His old mistress the tide is

keening this evening, whilst

an underpaid darling nestles

him like a fragile orchid.


And the tales of a trawlerman,

each net bigger than the last,

are absorbed through fingers

that stir his night night tea.