I’m not usually one for entering competitions of any sort, but I entered a Pighog competition as they are a local Sussex-based publisher with a good reputation. I have been to one or two of their events in the past, and thought it was a good way of raising my profile in the off chance of success.
Rather pleased then to have been invited to a poetry prizegiving night tonight in Lewes, having been shortlisted. The theme of the competition was Root and Branch. I wrote the following poem very quickly, as I had misread the closing date, and thought it was a month earlier.
It is another poem about Guernsey. It is imagining a mother in the last year of the Occupation thinking about her children who have been evacuated to England. This actually happened to my Grandfather’s mother, whose name was Zelia, although everyone called her Toots. My Grandfather and his parents stayed in Guernsey during the Occupation, but some of his younger siblings were evacuated off to England.
Root and branch
There’s marching in the Guernsey lane,
my table’s bare, the pattern’s clear:
they will starve us after curfew
they will break us at the table.
I scrape aside the hedgerow scraps
to float along the willow road
to distant bomb-pocked England
near a city I’ve never seen
where my children stay with strangers
and, forgetting all their patois,
they turn in skies of fractured glaze
and trill their songs with English tongues.
Each night the doves return as crows
and I’m harrowed root and branch
as they bayonet their places
and their mother stands accused
for I tore them from their garden
and I knotted them with labels
like a cherry shedding blossom
I dropped them from my stupid limbs.
Prizegiving is tonight. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.