Alice Malin (Second prize)
Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, Shropshire
Fire at the Morecambe Bay Pleasure-Dome, March 1917
Flames leap like dancers, weave
the tangerine of trailed chiffon across the sky;
whirl over rafters,
tight-rope walkers in crimson and gold
mesmerising as they merge
in a wild, lofty reel.
The building’s façade weeps away into the sea
like a clown sweating off his painted face
as he sags into a goodnight bow.
Beams shoot from the dome
faster than the Cannonball Man
has ever managed in his short career.
The crowd gathers on the beach below,
animated by the glow
of explosions set off inside like sudden jokes.
Sparks flying in everybody’s eyes.
And on the far edges of this captive audience,
close ranks of men leaning on their sticks
like bayonets. Silent, withdrawn.
They have been recruited from sticky sleep
or from the humid hide-outs of bars
by a sound bursting in the night sky
that is as familiar to them as air.
They know the feel of it on their ears,
the way it kindles and rages inside
after the first shock has died,
and they do not start
when the windows tear apart
like a worn uniform’s seams
when shards of glass spill out like lice.
On leave; recuperating – all waiting,
when the civil, gay, excited crowds
spread their arms to the blaze
like the silhouettes
of so many wooden, leaning crosses
and draw them along to the pier.
These men’s eyes strafe the throng;
see how the luminous faces of children,
pleased and glinting, flare.
Amongst the scattered driftwood,
left over like the wreckage of one last, great show,
they stand as if to attention
listening to the gasps and shouts
at the Pleasure-Dome’s disintegration.
- Date February 11, 2015
- Tags 2006 A Building - Winning Poems