2016 Crabbe Poetry Competition – Second Prize
Adjudicator: Moniza Alvi
Is in our bones. Cattle markets. Fire mouths ravenous for coal. A town where bottle kilns like sows’ teats are laid in rows, feeding the streets thick black smoke. When th’ovens fire thou canna see thy hand afore thy face. The way brick ovens breathe, contract, expand, belted with iron bands. Best china sets laid out inside the drawing room cabinet. Mother dusts each piece with care. The Flower of the month collection promises tea and scones. The yellow pansy in the August cup always reappears before the final sip. Bones, boiled till flesh falls off, then baked, dried, ground into ash. Soft paste poured into a mould shapes a plate, a jug, for dining on white damask cloth. Heat shrivels human skin unless the kiln’s gone cool. Time’s money. “Get the pottery out!” Five coats, three jackets, wet rags on hands, on face, men clamber in to lift the saggers down on padded arms. The women suck their brush tips to create petals for a flawless pansy. Lead paint, gut rot. Mother brushes crumbs from her plate, holds it up against the window where light rushes through. The living outline of her hand that’s placed behind is edged with radiance. Chimdys. Grime smears our strayt. The sun’s gone dead from soot.
Jill Eulalie Dawson