We announced our winners way back in June but held off posting them on here to allow one of the authors to submit their work to another publication. We can now present to you the top three poems on the subject of ‘flight’ as decided by our lovely judge, Leanne Moden.
In Third Place, ‘Heron‘ by Peter Cash of Trentham, Stoke on Trent.
She models for Alberto Giacometti
wearing a grey suit with shoulder-pads
and showing a leg.
Whatever her story is, she’s sticking to it.
Indeed, she is immovable, it’s not as if she doesn’t
have that leg to stand on.
A static installation, she stays by the canal,
not contemplating anything pleasant,
but studying it for ripples which recur
after an otherworldly barge of a cavalcade of mallards
has meandered upstream. Like Hermione
she comes to life…
She ankles upright and lifts off:
on the tow-path, we tune our heart-beats
to the silent tintinnabulation of her wings.
In Second Place, the full version of a poem that has been selected for publication in The Spectator, ‘Dogfight In The Sky‘ by A.K.S. Shaw of Templecombe, Somerset.
After consultation, the elderly squadron leader
knew he would be fighting for survival:
hormone therapy as back-up – thirty-seven sorties
of carefully targeted external beam radiotherapy
homing in on the prostate and surrounding area.
When he leaves the briefing room he’s kitted out,
hands shaking, stomach churning, bladder full.
Morning sunshine floods across the tarmac.
This could be Biggin Hill in 1940. He can’t wait
to take off, destroy the enemy, get the job done.
The other chaps have their own stories: one
couldn’t climb up; another peed in the cockpit.
He remembers those who didn’t come back:
ditched; burnt; “some corner of a foreign field,”
but, with the latest equipment, he should be fine.
He’s in the cockpit, no longer troubled by nerves.
Above him – a spotless blue sky: the face of heaven;
the growl of the engines is music; a slight vibration,
the gun carefully aimed, the button ready to press.
He closes his eyes. It’s all over in minutes.
On the runway a nurse us smiling at him.
He climbs down and smooths his moustache –
relief – the fuselage undamaged – no friendly fire.
He slips off his gown and opens his log book:
mission accomplished – one down, thirty-six to go.
Walking across the tarmac he passes more pilots,
one – no more than a boy, some – hardened veterans.
He recalls that day in July 1940 when he was nearly
shot down – saved for another kind of dogfight;
another kind of enemy; another kind of war.
In First Place, ‘Ladybirds‘ by Peter Cash (again!)
Never did this fieldsman know air
heavier with ladybirds.
Not an insouciant swarm
(as of bees bumbling
along curded hedgerows
or of blue down blown
off finished thistles)
– but a surprise landing
of minute helicopters
in an old war-film
without its soundtrack.
Between overs, one bird
put down upon my hand.
I noticed then:
that its white goggles
(borrowed from Biggles)
were gazing nowhere,
its white nostrils
(neither bigger than the nib
that coiffs an i)
breathing no air
and its black whiskers,
crooked like little fingers,
Not, then, an arch design:
not a complicated craft
reduced to simulating
(or other expelled spore)
no an imitation
of an imitation-toadstool
embarrassing a back-garden
– but an unapologetic,
six brittle legs
and an orange fuselage
that aeons ago
An air-force scrambling
up my hand.
Thank you to the winners for such terrific poems and also to Leanne and finally to all of our entrants. The 2019 poetry competition will be launched in January so keep an eye out for more information.