The Cuirt New Writing Prize for Poetry 2015

Donkey sees the light

From his corner of the yard under the tin shack roof
Donkey schlepps himself into another tic-bitten dawn.
He heaves open his eyes expecting, as ever, to see
The One, writ large, his life-long goal,
worth every stumble in the dust
and stagger through the deadly passes.
But this morning it is not there dangling.
It feels cruel to ponder Donkey’s confusion.
Instead of the carrot that has remained
mysteriously suspended and just out of reach
for twelve back-breaking years, Donkey raises his head
to snow-capped mountains and dancing tree tops,
dragonflies; and as never before, the sun’s
stippling light in the rain. Not a sniff
of the orange dream through the knotted hull of his nose
but a rush of wild lavender, a trace of gardenia,
his boxed ears fill with the Morse of whistling thrushes
and the soothing riplets of a stream.
So it is that time finally comes to a stop for Donkey,
by now fully alive to the horror of nothing to live for.

Table Twenty-Seven

Gangsters in a basement diner we shift
our scheming faces from table twenty-eight
to sit side-by-side at a trestle in the corner
for the dimmer light and panoramic views.

Straight off I start the look-like game:
the old boy by the stairs has a touch of Peter Ustinov,
our waitress shares the features of a teacher I once knew.
But to you they’re all pig farmers.

When we spread our broadsheets on the cloth
the heft of paper nudges all the cutlery around.
We order coffee, juice, chorizo pizza, you tack on
the dish du jour, posh cheddar cheese on toast.

We lord and lady it for ninety minutes, lapping up
the local gossip, making plans to find employment,
smirking when young William pokes a swizzle
in his baby sister’s eye. This meal will be on me,

I say, for all the hope you give
I’ll give you something back for nothing.
The waitress tips her brow up to the ceiling:
Tell them Table Twenty-Seven.

The queue at the till edges forward,
minor irritations creep through.
In the polite clamour we step simultaneously
out of line; away from the willing-to-pays,

we head briskly for the street in total silence,
neither of us in the slightest doubt,
we keep on walking and buzzing for hours.
God that felt good.

The Fermoy International Poetry Prize 2014
Published in The Blue Max Review

Stuff The Poet Dreams on

Standing in front of the sponsor’s board
a dozen or so big-brand logos totally obscured
by the one-hand-on-the-money-the-other-on-Barbados grin
that cuts The Poet’s head clean in two.

The Poet’s own primetime show, an hour a week
during which The Poet smokes a few
and starts to write poetry on anything to hand
there are dozens of markers pens and post-it notes
audience members with sheets of paper, studio walls, crazy stuff
in order to be, as it were, The Poet, before the public
is invited to dissect The Poet’s work
while The Poet remains silent in fact
the Poet leaves the television centre altogether to return home to The Poet’s laptop.

Appearing in a picture-heavy
magazine on an Asian beach
with a mystery blond
Poet Casts Love Spell!

A tea-time slot on Test Match Special
at the deciding Ashes test
So England are 131 for 8
what do you make of that, Poet?

Someone, finally, at a midweek reading in an
independent bookstore in Kircaldy or somewhere else
having the balls to say
You are actually a shit poet, Poet.