Winners 2004: First prize

Katherine Hindley (Winner)

South Hampstead High School, London

Sunrise in Egypt

At dawn the balloons appear,
Swelling in the air and rising with the sun,
Smooth and full as the first tomato,
Smelling of earth and moss and
Ripe, pregnant secrets.
They squat above the sand and the dust,
And the hot markets and hibiscus flowers,
And the temples where the air
Lies on the ruins like museum glass,
Cool and silent.
The first tourists crawl across the desert,
Leaving no shadows,
And the trembling air hardly moves to let them past.
The light moves so slowly that it almost falls,
And I am barely breathing
With every grain of sand defined.
The first camera clicks and
The first stallholder calls to the visitors
Blinking in the dawning and the splendour,
While the palaces where the burgled dead lay dreaming
And the graveyards where the living sleep in stolen mausoleums
Drift to life between the rising sun and the fading moon,
And the birds are singing in a foreign language,
And the minarets are droning to each other
In the morning.