Cycling Across t’Bridge

by Ieuan ap Hywel
The Writer's Block
First Place, November 2021
Judged by Terence Culleton

Wending my way agin wind and wet weather
wearing oilproofs and yellow sou’wester.
Astonished to see Nona waiting for me,
straddling the bar of her dad’s rusty bike.

Oilproofs flapping I look up to see
wind whipping water up from the weir.
Her dress draping over her boneshaker bike,
spray splashing onto her long chestnut hair.

The wind whipping water up from the weir.
Proud, standing tall, red-knitted cardigan.
Fizzing white foam spraying onto her hair.
Standing sedate, top button undone.

Proud, standing tall, tight-fitting cardigan.
Weaving my way agin wind and wet weather.
Statuesque, standing tall, top button undone.
Non at the bridge, wistful, waiting for me.

A key to the sureness with which this poem realizes the musical structure of the pantoum form is the fact that there is only one main verb in the entire piece. The poet cycles a single remembered image through carefully crafted quatrains in such a way that, with each return of any given detail of the scene, there is not just a recognition, but a re-realization. The language is always fresh and musical, filled with assonantal and consonantal textures, and it’s often surprisingly inventive, as in the second quatrain’s reference to “her boneshaker bike.” Every quatrain of this poem resonates with both loss and recovery. The charged moment is fixed in the past but brought back into the present again through the offices of the poetic imagination. The merging of past and present, memory and desire, loss and recoupment is the exact remit of the lyric mode and the key to its hypnotic power. I could read this one again and again—and will. --Terence Culleton