Creative Competition Winners – Written

1st prize in the ‘written’ category:

Alleyway – 29th October by Duncan Jones

Still pools of rain water
a small alley
scattered with the waste
and translucent ghosts
of street cats,
tin cans & dandelion weeds –

I saw the universe
in that small alley
stars in glass shards
white sunlight
in red stone
empires in rubble –

no footprints, no persons,
but tiny droplets of water
on dustbin lids
a dirt track not trodden
with grass stems protruding
through rock.

What derelict Universe!
What starving Universe of the heart!

Then came the train
riding overhead
and the vehicles surging
cross the tarmac path.

No asphodel encroached
on thought
no wreathes of laurel.
Just postmen, milkmen,
business men and schoolchildren
day-labourers and bus drivers
all caste in uniform

nodding heads and shaking hands
laughing, turning wheels
around tarmac paths
to nowhere.
Rounding
the bend
they go,
they went.

No heads
cocked toward
my pretty alley.

So I flicked a cigarette butt
in its direction
and yes it did land
in those shallow puddles
in those shards of grass –

there it secured its place
and mine too
in the universe
and deteriorated slowly
among glass and rubble
the sounds of infinity
pitter-pattering off
of red-brick.

Yes,
still pools
of rainwater

yes,
a complete state
of earthly memoriam –

smoke scattering
upward into
the stars

like spectres roaming
rubble alleyways
yes, with the night-cats
with the great
pale moon.2nd prize in the ‘written’ category:

In Loving the Metaphor by Crystal Shi

In loving the metaphor, in loving the sly,
cryptic stone, tossed weightlessly into the air,
from the damp hunger of the hand into the
forthcoming oval vowel, I try: to hear the prelude.

In loving the metaphor, in loving the prime
fig, gloved in purple, shivered into a single purple
prominence down the spine of the windowsill,
I blink prostrate, I vow patience, I tell it to miss me;

in loving the metaphor, I do not let the metaphor
become beautiful, I force it to swallow its beauty
too early, and gorging curious, it never left,
it gathered.

I weigh my stone,
awhile, and wonder what is being done while
my sleep falls short of glory;
and who can live without sighing? For love is nothing
that cannot be found
in the rearranging of flaccid moon, in the
halves of cicadas, maestros slicing the season
into woollen stars that dissolve into scarves;
and beauty is everything that dies
in the original rustling of verbs.

So I say everything, all things shouting
my nerves my mouth my reasons, I say everything once
for fear, twice for beauty three times
for timely time for the sheer inertia of being
thrown past the sum of ego and the gasping infinite what
of black pockets and ergo; of love, loving only
to hear what I sound like, if I do chime viola disconcerting
enough—in loving the hour, I rub the poverty
of my words between my frail
and pedalling fingers
to find out if I am worth anything,
anything at all, if it is possible to awaken
the concert in a clot, by simply staring at the congregating leaves,
a slow awakening anything tearing
into the nocturnal churning
pause.

Finally: the rain,
on om. Falling first
millennial falls, these falling, toiling loves,
suicidal shoves, windfalls, telling me sideways, stones, stones clapping
soils, in homecomings, telling me some suns ago, jump, and after, telling me
applause, defeating me in applause, telling me, everywhere,
how to say goodnight. Aha,
aha. Aha.3rd prize in the ‘written’ category:

One Door Closes by Josie Waller

Jack had just been fired. He threw his briefcase down on the table in his insolent-looking flat, shrugged off his starched suit jacket and resigned himself to the sofa. It was nearly eight o’ clock; the wintry shadows clung to the corners of the room like phantom spiders, and a static darkness reclined in the air above his head. Jack glanced about in the gloom, taking in the frozen domestic scene of scattered papers, tainted coffee mugs and dirty plates that he had left in the morning. He felt a creeping sense of irritation at the room’s mute indifference to his changed circumstances, and knocked a mug half full of tea to the floor in order to console himself. He felt better for the microscopic, chaotic patch of liquid that radiated from the spot where it fell.

His boss had, in his mind, given him no valid reason. He worked -had worked- for a small business magazine in the city, researching and writing articles about the fortunes of various business people. He couldn’t honestly say that he enjoyed it, but he was good at it, and that was the important thing. He tried to remember the exact formulation of words his boss had used… lack of enthusiasm, mockery of the magazine… these phrases were pushed reluctantly to the front of his mind, drawing shyly back again before he could arrange them into a coherent thought. It wasn’t important. He noticed that the tea was sinking quite rapidly into the cream carpet, so he reluctantly slid off the sofa and made his way to the kitchen to get a cloth, dragging his feet obstinately as he went. The harsh, inconsiderate glare of the light bouncing off the white tiles temporarily blinded him as he entered his pitiful kitchen, and he stood swaying where he was until the purple blotches before his eyes dissipated.

Besides, everyone knew the real reason why he’d lost his job. His boss had a slick, smart-talking son, the kind of boy who wears suits around the house and laughs loudly at his father’s every comment. The boy had been visiting the offices rather a lot recently, writhing his way into the office’s social sphere, much to Jack’s silent disgust. He was fresh from university and in need of a job. Jack cast about in a crowded drawer for the cloth, finding it nestled at the back amongst various household cleaning products. It didn’t take a genius to work out what had gone on. He smiled half bitterly and half reproachfully to himself as he abandoned the cloth and poured out a large glass of wine.Making his way out of the kitchen, he stopped before the dull glass doors which led out to his modest balcony. He stood still for a moment before encouraging them open; they were slightly too big for the frame and scratched moodily along the laminate flooring as he pushed them. Stepping out of doors, he propped himself up against the tense metal railing which enclosed the tiny balcony. The night was breathy, dense and absolute, the blank canvas of the sky proffering a few skittish stars. Jack thought the sky looked exactly like the sea does at night; a blue edging on black, with the matt sheen of the unknown clinging to its surface. He thought if he listened closely enough he might hear the whale-call of the stars reverberating about the heavens. He took a long drag at the cold air to clear his head and counteract the muffling influence of the wine, which he had downed rather too quickly. The inhalation brought with it the cold realisation that he no longer had a job. What was he going to do? He sighed deeply; the balcony was his tragic stage and the tall, wind-battered trees his only audience. He humoured himself and gazed up at the sky in the manner he believed a tragic actor might.

Just at that moment, his peripheral vision snared a shape stealing across the plain of the sky. It dived up from the depths, glimmering with sudden, chance beauty, like some ancient, almost mythical creature which is oblivious to its own rarity. It had a fiery silver tail which it trailed closely behind it as it cut gently through the flesh of the universe. It was distant, yet it was there, and it was the only thing Jack could see as the corners of his vision flickered and melted around it. It lingered for a moment, piercing one tiny, privileged patch of the blackness, before shying back down into the breast of the sky. A shooting star.

Jack kept his gaze bonded to the place where it had vanished. He smiled to himself, then laughed out loud, the sound skimming playfully around the balcony and down the walls of the building. He turned back towards the glowing pocket of light which filled his flat, still smiling, to clean up the spilt tea. He’d get another job tomorrow.

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