Sophia West (Third prize)
Oxford High School
There was a day when the lake air was damp
with the exhalations of moss and ferns. The night
had been long, chilled by green leaves and dark water.
I opened the door of a public toilet and found her,
curled in a mess of limbs on white grid tiles.
Her legs embraced the toilet in an arabesque,
the wall lifted her neck in an architectural caress.
She was a swan,
though it is useless to compare her to anything,
useless to make a metaphor for her.
She was this – she was restless, she opened wide
insect moon eyes, she looked with the look
of those who travel alone and stand alone.
It is difficult to explain body against tile like this.
We sat by the lake, the water reflecting the
hills and the sky until it became them, distorting with
quiet bird ripples or fish breaths. She unfolded a little,
an origami crane, and we looked out at the water.
Perhaps it meant different things to both of us, the water.
Perhaps the same. She wanted to swim far out,
where no woman had swum before.
We drove through the mountains and valleys,
followed the creases of the land and
wrinkles of water until we reached the sea.
She slept through the day – the sun picking out
motes of dust around her eyebrows – and
I imagined she dreamt of her birth in space,
or her fall from the sky at night.
She filled the spaces I could not fill myself.
In the mornings she undressed, revealing
those wings, moth green-grey, which made her
a dreamer-woman, something else.
The sea spread out in front of us, still there
though I sometimes wondered it hadn’t
decided to disappear after all those million years.
Cat-like, she crept in and out of her body,
marking and unmarking the territories of herself.
Maze-like, she wound in and out of me
until she had stitched me together, out of limb and leaf.
Out in the dark sea, we swam and swam
towards all the horizons and towards her insect moon eyes —
far out, where no women had swum before.
- Date April 20, 2016
- Tags 2016 Wonder - Winning Poems