The judges were thrilled to announce the winner of the LitFest NPD competition last night at The Kidderminster Museum of Carpet. The winning poet is Claire Walker – congratulations Claire. The highly-rated runners-up are Brian Comber and Jenny Shaw. The three poems appear below in alphabetical order (poets’ surnames).
by Brian Comber
It is a small sound but enough to keep the house awake, a remote rumble
and high notes like a twangling viol then the deep pause as of a breaking wave when the next
breath starts. She lies by his barrel body and keeps the night watch..
The texture of damp in a struggling throat, the taste of hemp and moist flax, his
heft barely holding his coat across his oxen chest. No longer an entire man, his hearing
shot, the world swims about him, beyond reach.
He was someone in the town, people know a carpet man, like a butcher, or an undertaker.
As he walked the early mornings to the yard, men would nod as the chalk sky
turned orange towards the foundries, and the street woke and shuffled to work.
Soon it will be four and a thin light will show through the free upper spaces of the great
factory hall, still hung with fibrous air.
By five the shop floor is compressed by the physical force of the sound, like
hammering beasts in an iron box. Motes swim up to the rafters as the roar
rises above the pounding loom which even now
drowns out all thought in his mean mildewed room.
A bowl of shrivelled apples, a pale cast washed sky,
morning stands on tiptoe, dawn unfurls, work begins.
She treasures a scrap of carpet, taken when the gang man was turned
The fragment she brought home a foot square on her bare boards, but in the
colour and design she sees skies, countries and unknown pleasures, material tones
which come alive beneath her caress.
The hue of blossom, of summer blush, of a life external, she thrills with the plush
of charms and luxuriance…And she yearns for the balm of Bethesda…
She opens the drawer holding her withered flowers and brushes them like a
butterfly’s wing, sensing the nap, the respiratory give, the gossamer winsomeness of
the past. He gave her Sally- my- handsome on their wedding day,
a posy as a measure of his country ways.
Lamps on the canal rouse her, but the lambency of
the day ahead .hangs around her like a trance. A cloud moves across the sun and dapples the
room, casting light and shade onto soft hues and the sense of a beauty
unseen. They have sat in the dark to save the gas with just the glow
from the fires on the bank, screwing their eyes to read or in the scullery,
playing with shapes unseen, imagining the press or the cutting machine.
His coarsened fists lie limp like sides of mutton.
And it has come to this, a love diminished by toil, by a factory that has
eaten them away is broken down to a dutiful attachment, clenched in their married
hands. His bulk has been shed and the span between them has become
opaque, lacking light or shade. The yarn jams, snags and unravels, rough fingertips
through which a generation of wool has flown can no longer discern the colour of work.
The Colour Of The Wind: Jordan
by Jenny Shaw
What is the colour of the wind?
It is rose-red savagery –
Raving through the ancient site,
Shrieking with revulsion at the centuries of bloodshed
As it tears up the Siq;
Bursting forth to howl away across the desolate plains.
It is a whirling golden haze of spun sand,
Hurling again and again at contorted mountain masses;
Destroying and replenishing
As a million million fragments
Mingle with the sifting, shifting floor.
It is the fury of the desert night,
Ceaseless in its turbulence:
The darkness of the inbetween spangles
On the silver shawl flung against the sky
At Wadi Rum.
At dawn, it creeps slowly
To reveal ochre, sage and the white fluttering of a hawk;
The pale luminosity of limestone.
The rock, smooth and pliant,
Surrenders, and bathes in its light
Learning to Make a Rag Rug
by Claire Walker
I step into the museum house,
its gloom slanting away from modern light.
A lady, wearing her mop-cap pretense,
rocks in her chair at the dusty hearth.
Her threading-fingers are rough
as the hessian rectangle she holds.
I watch, impatient for sunshine,
as she loops threads from back to front.
She talks of using old clothes, nothing wasted
to warm feet on dark quarry tiles.
She explains traditional ways:
There’s something of all the family in this rug.
And that’s when the light floods in:
I imagine what I could use –
slivers of Dad’s last-day-at-work shirt,
the silk of my daughter’s first ballet outfit,
snips from elastic First School ties,
the rainbow scarf my mother wore on cold days.
The family tree set down
through each arc of material, each soft coil.