Winning Poems for August 2021

Judged by Bruce McRae

First Place

Time Portal At Fenchurch St. Station

by Ieuan ap hywel
The Writer's Block

An autumn drizzle dampens
the station entrance
A ticket inspector
in silver buttons nods
me through the barrier

My first half-day free
of dead-reckoning in five weeks
I buy a return ticket to Chalk Farm
underground station
The long haul up Primrose Hill
Umbrellaed commuters stare
at my swagger
Heavy steps an’ little uns
Heavy steps and skipped ones

The cleaner answers my knock
She’s at Les Marécottes
A week in the Valais Valley
with her class

Pity, Julie loved to watch the antics
at the monkey house
Later, we’d chill listening
to the Beatles, down
a bottle of airén from a case
liberated by her father
at Córdoba in ’36

Belay that outing
I’ve missed her, and that is that

A 2T engine blows superheated
steam from a water trap
Warm condensate envelops
me in a grey mist
I trot through
A hidden voice speaks through the fog
‘Plenty of time, Sir.’

The Tannoy bursts into life
A woman’s wooden voice annunciates
‘The train on platform four
is the 12:24 for Tilbury . . .’
her plummy accent reverberates
among the roof spaces

A courting couple squirm
on a bench
A bare thigh lifts
to pull my eye
A porter winks,
‘Young love hey, Sir’
“Yes, indeed.”
I buy a paper at W. H. Smith’s

I ruminate on what could have been
Julie’s play-acting wearing my uniform
The scrambled egg on my cap
did something for her

A pigeon squawks underfoot
The train puffs, chugs and puffs out
of the station. Rat-a-tat-tat
The smell of coke hanging
on the engine’s chuff
The rhythm changes over the points
te-te-dum, te-te-dum
nothing to be done

Down the embankment
a housewife happily beats
the life out of a carpet
A horse tosses
it’s feedbag for the last oats
Workmen congregate like rodents
The shriek of a factory hooter.

I lean back into an antimacassar
Five weeks to Woolloomooloo
Summer in the Antipodes
Helen’s tanned torso
at Rushcutter Bay
scrumptious in her red silken
polka-dot bikini.

Having lived in London for 20 years, I admit this poem struck me on a personal level, evoking another time in my, as well as the author's, life. Those moments in our past when everything that was or is verges on change. Well constructed and paced, it conjures the senses of sight and sound while steering clear of being overly emotional. --Bruce McRae

Second Place

Still Life With Woodpecker

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum

inside four walls
made of southern pine
a twelve by twelve by eight box
this diminutive universe of solitude
without a road running past
without any wires strung overhead
or buried underground
with windows that look out
onto fir branches
and brambles of raspberries

with a bowl of apples
blushing on the table
a battery powered radio
the feral darkness encroaching
like a villain ready to steal
whatever beauty remains
the blue cybernetic eye
of a paperweight weighing down
my thoughts of a past
that may or may not have existed

with a rotary telephone
plugged into nothing
but the spirits of friends and family
their silent voices
on the other side whispering
unhearable secrets
of the burdens they bear
from this life into next
the graves they’ve dug
for themselves and their loved ones

with so much I want to forget
to relive differently
as distant stars spiral into a cosmos
of swirling nebulas on the ceiling
these encyclopedias of images
arriving randomly like the tap tap tap
of a woodpecker’s beak
against a rotten tree
the treat always hidden from plain sight
but unforgettable when found

Intelligent and musical, I found this poem to be nicely balanced. Although the title suggests looking outwardly, the poet easily veers into mindfulness and reflection, the mind's eye seeing beyond the temporal. This seems to add an extra dimension to what could have been simply descriptive. --Bruce McRae

Third Place


by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block

Show me how it all ends with
match-stick sailors in paper
boats on an origami sea.

Christ tamed a tempest
and danced upon the waves.
It is not the deep I fear.

It’s pissing myself at 4 AM,
clicking the morphine button
and coming up empty, watching

them take my toes, one-by-one.
I want to believe in miracles.
I want a fat- bottomed nurse

who calls me Sugar makes
a sign of the cross on the
keel of my brow, tells me

“No more water. Ice chips.
Float with me now, Sugar.
Ain’t got time for this.”

A down to earth and humourous poem, this writer asks some big questions that we all should be universally considering – what will the end be like? The Christian motifs it employs are counterbalanced by some sharp-tongued and streetwise images while entertaining the issue of human mortality, and all in 18 compressed lines. --Bruce McRae