Winners 2012

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Bethan Smith (Second prizewinner)

South Essex College, Southend-on-Sea, Essex


We watch it unfold with the grace of doves.

The stray-string tail flicks away, restless,
caught by an invisible hand in the air.

Gently, more gently than feathers,
the fingers cup the red sphere

and tug – tug it from its mortal bindings
as the small girl’s grip unpeels in an answer.

Her eyes become inquisitive magpies, her
upward palm a fearful what if? – an open question,

As open-mouthed, we watch her
learn that new sight – a red sun drifting skyward,

swept into the cotton blankets of clouds.
And she does not weep at this, but laughs:

Her mouth is quenched at the sound of it –
that strange new word as she points: ‘ba-lloon’.

A coo of delight, as her lips find their way
around its fresh shape, its rounded circle vowels –

And her tongue, flicking the long L away,
pushes it along like a gust of air –

She stretches syllables into tiny, shoving hands
with each new gulp of ba-lloon, ba-lloon.

And, not knowing yet how the wind works,
it bobs along by her mind, her voice:

across broken roof-tiles, chimney tops,
and into the speck of the sky unseen –

Gliding through the air like a soundless boat,
rising upward through sea-foam clouds.

And the balloon can’t choke a telegraph pole,
or rip a vein on a barbed-wire aerial –

But greets a silent moon over the Atlantic,
glows pink in the heat of the African sun –

and we watch her push the balloon with her
mind, and off the face of the earth.

© Bethan Smith, 2012


Project Details

  • Date February 10, 2015
  • Tags 2012 Voyages - Winning Poems