Winners 2014

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Sam Buckton (2nd prizewinner)

Rudolf Steiner School

Hell-of-an-island

A prayer in every weather-whetted eye
that gazed after the James Caird’s wake –
and none that turned away
to stumble back
did not feel dread at our predicament.
Our fates are tethered to that boat.
The oil and seal’s blood paint
that coated it,
the keel we braced up and the deck we laid
were last investments of our faith
now reeling in the flood
and pitching forth
to South Georgia.  May the shearwaters
follow and guide her… I dream long
in these makeshift quarters
of the wild song
the gales cry out over that wide ocean
until I wake up to their shrieks
and their restless droving
on canvas.  Looks
to be a rough night.  Most of the men sleep
despite the burning cold.  Hiding
a blackened fingertip,
only minding
the stench of the blubber lamps or the taste
of penguin meat. Their fists enclose
whale-bone scrimshaws they lost
out on the ice.
For our Endurance failed us once before.
She splintered like an old nutshell
in a vice and somewhere
she juts out tall,
a tangled carcass of rope and wood-shards
stark against the Antarctic wastes.
She will sink nether-wards
with all her ghosts.
Where lies our hope?  That bourne upon a wave –
of all the countless waves that crash
on the shingle, arrive
only to wash
away another heart’s beat – that this wave
will bring news.  Such news that may be
no news at all but of
a sated sea.

© Sam Buckton, 2014