Longlisted Poem 2012

Luke van den Barselaar

Colyton Grammar School, Devon

Walking Away

That day I just got up and walked away. Through amber streets
And dancing woods and arctic plains I kept on walking
Until I found the end of the world, of everything. The edge – a
Sheer black drop, falling into midnight, like the last flicker on
A television before it’s finally, definitely, off. And I stood,
Looked out over forever at the void at the end of the universe,
And carried on walking.

Eventually the darkness ended, and I was walking underneath
A roiling sky of dreams and hopes, the liquid tempest of
Imagination. In a castle woven from nightmares, squat in the
Centre of his realm, Morpheus the Madgod visited
The slumbering masses. Dreams flew down from the
Brainstorm above, offering ecstasy eternal, but, eyes closed,
I carried on walking.

A stone door, sunken like an eye socket in a hill, led away
From the pulsing sky. It was grey under here, and I heard
Growling, like the heartbeat of a train, from many throats.
I found a river, trudging slow and monotonous underground –
The ferryman ignored me, so I waded across. I felt fleeting brushes
On my skin, and I thought someone watched me. But I was alone,
And carried on walking.

Past two huge and empty thrones, carved from a stone that
Absorbed light, and up a path whose stones bore words carved out.
I only wanted the best for her, read one. The others all blur together.
I forget a section – a blank and hazy mist clouds my memory, then
I was in a field of poppies, crimson and waving. They whispered to me,
Of secrets and knowledge, but I could see the blood colouring them,
And carried on walking.

The poppies gave way to forest, which gave way to a glade, filled
With polka-dot toadstools. Succulent apples hung from boughs –
I stopped myself in time; you should never eat their food. The
Clearing ringed a well, at which an old hag slumped in dirty rags.
I hauled up the pail, handing her the water and refusing a drink;
In thanks she led me to an open door with flaking paint. I went through,
And carried on walking.

A corridor, long and dark,
And at the end, a room.
Empty, lifeless as a grave
All except for you.
I stared into your waiting eyes
Beautiful and cruel
Your lips parted as you asked
What took you so long?
© Luke van den Barselaar