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2018 Winning Poems

The Fisher of Ham Common

Jacobite Amen glass, England, 1740-50. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.


The sunlight was different now, it swayed

In bright vertical stalks. He knew the sound,

The wet sound of the world closing round

Him. When the last of the light had played


On the tangled edges of the marshlands

He knew that dark moved softly like a sigh.

He knew the sorry truth of it would tie

Satin knots around his heavy hands.


Every certainty becomes unbearable

With time; the wind would always comb

His hair back, the moon would be like milk


In the water, again again, terrible terrible.

He knew he would again move quietly home,

Under sky like a darkness shovelled into silk.

by Dominic Leonard, Christ Church, Oxford.

Stella to her Violent Lover

Oh, every woman loves a shoed-in face, a

hammered-scalp, a spanner-through-the-gut.

So, when you sighed me to your side to glut

my wealth of misplaced pain in lurid ace-of-

spades rooms, salvation lisped my name.

Because I loved you, still I think I do love

dead perfection, goddess-worship, you. I love

lacunae, intrigue, venus-fame.

But, travelling to you under spangled sky last

night the vaulted black wept goddess-tears

That soaked me so my bones let flow a thirst

for mother’s milk, and family crypts, and I by

old embracing headstones lost all fears, and

fears, Love, bound me to you like a curse.

by Shimali de Silva, Peterhouse, Cambridge