Taraneh Peryie (First prize)
Bristol Grammar School
I used to think all men were slaves to me, but
with the keen flick of your eye, faster than a serpent’s tongue,
you swept through Jerusalem and called me to the foot of your bed.
You smirk; some strong aphorism has played on your lips.
Sweet, cool ablution; confessions to men in red; hermits fasting.
All answer to you. The smooth lines of your neck, the arch of your back.
I wake sweated over, filthy with want, full of threat and fallacy.
I want to scream, to sing about the whiteness of your throat,
your cool nakedness. Ungodly red infection of the mind.
Like the black-faced eremite on his pilgrimage
from Edessa to the Holy Land, my feet will blister on stone.
You know me by an unspoken name.
Like the hailing chorus of Gabriel’s wings,
sounds that roll off your tongue, prickle against my skin.
I’ll never see fire or hear the sea again.
From fertile sin, out shall spring an apple tree,
share its fruit with me. I will stand by you.
King of England – dead, a sexless bed fellow.
I gave you my soul. I damned the sweet rivers of wine and
the protection of the archangel’s wing – seized hell as my home.
And you gave me your sister. A marriage of starched sheets.
Her sweet eyes aping your own,
a reflection so dear it made me weep.
And is this how you’ll keep me? A dog on a chain?
A mocking ghost of the memory I kept of you.
The faint likeness of blue irises? I will not ask.
Two crowns cannot kiss.
I want to rip out your tongue with my teeth.
I want to ask why your face is so calm, as if you don’t remember
the embrace we shared, heat that passed between
our bodies like ghosts. I could tear the hair from my head,
watch it scatter like leaves, the hours burning
on their own funeral pyre.
If only god had reached down from Elysium
and scorched my tongue to blistered snakeskin.
You will forget, and history will never know,
like water slipping through cracks in the sky into the ocean
petrified into pillars of salt useless to a parched beggar’s throat.
We will disappear, but even now I will collect each moment,
each sound, each soft sighing whisper like precious stones.
I will etch into rock Once, I loved the king of France
and keep it as a pebble in my palm,
quietly turning its smooth sides around in my hands.
give their colour to you.
Now, we can say nothing at all.
- Date October 4, 2018
- Tags 2018 Winning Poems