Winners 2008

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Ashley McMullin (Second prize)

The Sixth Form College, Colchester, Essex

Journey to Hilly Country

On a bacon-crisp December morning,
My dad and I climbed steep Errington Road
With a rucksack-loaded lollop. Dawning,
Behind trees’ skeletal silhouettes, glowed
The glaring-pink eastern rim of the sky;
House fronts, concealing their dwellers who snored
Within, rang with birds’ shrill, musical cry.
Along the barracks, our icy breath poured
Forth in spiky gouts of mist; so lonely,
Yet so close, as we trod the barren straight
Of Butt Road. We waited at the stop, slowly
Numbed with cold, before the coach arrived, late.

Westbound it took us, leaving the slumber
Of my hometown to join the grey, racing
Stretch of the A12. Hurrying under
The paling heavens striped with the lacing
Vapour trails of jet planes, we passed
Fields and farms, and small settlements which clung
To the roadside. All went by as in fast-
Forward mode: bursts of images among
Which the vast landscapes shifted each second,
Dropping back like discarded memories.
Towards noon, near Reading, rainclouds beckoned,
Whilst one old man muttered obscenities.

From the lashing rain we emerged, and crossed
An iron bridge over golden mud flats
Glistening with sunshine. Onwards, through lost
Valleys dressed in firs like green, bristling mats;
They vanished, as hilly Welsh countryside
Gave way to flooded fields and meadows, fed
By serpentine rivers, swollen and wide.
We soon joined the city’s packed streets; ahead,
Lay our destination: Ninian Park.
Inside the ground, flags whipped and cracked with each
Wind-breath; as for the match, we were, as dark
Closed in, viewers of a dismal defeat.

Heading back, back to where we had begun,
With the night pressing in on the window,
Deep and oppressive. Slopes, once soaked in sun,
Drifted, barely visible in the glow
Of foggy headlights; like the maze of peaks
And summits in the mind, when trying to
Recall remnants of the past, which now leak –
Drop, by drop, by drop. As if through
Misted coach glass, I barely see those two
Figures on that fresh, lost December day:
Walking, in the bright dawning hours, into
The distance, slowly fading… walking away.

Project Details

  • Date February 10, 2015
  • Tags 2008 Change - Winning Poems