The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
2019 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicator: Tiffany Atkinson
Along croziers of sunlight, the archbishops
swim lengths of Jesus Green Lido.
Behind the trees, along the Cam,
the river’s mirror is a font, brimming with sky:
a hundred yards of holy water.
By butterfly, Robert Runcie has reached
the peppermint stripes of the basket room.
Just ahead, Thomas Cranmer executes
a front crawl, as languid as a sinner to confession.
Boniface of Savoy is spotted in Speedos.
This is still early, when the only sounds
are muttered matins, tumble turns
and the flight of a single bird from a branch.
Through the mist, Charles Longley floats
on his back, writing his sermon on a cloud.
George Carey has knotted his cassock
and is slowly inflating it as a life saving device.
He wears a tattoo of the double helix
on one shoulder and an ichthys on the other.
Selling tickets, Thomas Becket sits at the turnstile.
He sips tea and rereads the short stories
of John Cheever. He has the patience of a saint.
He counts in the early sixteenth century bishops
who wear nose pegs and synchronise
in a flamingo continuous spin. Meanwhile in Latin,
Rowan Williams gently scolds a pair of pigeons
sipping at the shallows. Justin Welby patrols
the water’s edge in black shorts and plimsolls.
A lifebelt in hand, he leaves footprints in sunlight,
and counts the hours until it is his turn to swim.
Copyright © 2019 Christopher James