We held a slam following our AGM this week, and all were impressed with the quality on offer. In total, we had seven poets and seven writers of prose, and offered a small prize to the winning poet and winning writer.

Each winner was chosen by public vote, using Zoom’s polling function – the first time we’ve attempted this, and there were a few teething problems! But, we got there in the end. Thanks to all attendees for their patience as we iron out these small niggles with our virtual offering.

The winners!

Best poem: Rosie O’Carroll, My Lockdown Birthday

Best prose: a tie between Ann Pattison with Had I But World Enough and Time, and Lauren McMenemy with Under Cover of Darkness

Each writer has graciously allowed us to publish their entries here for your enjoyment. Do let us know your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom of the page, and subscribe to our newsletter to find out about our coming events.

My Lockdown Birthday, by Rosie O’Carroll

Photo by Isabella and Louisa Fischer on Unsplash

On my lockdown birthday, my true love sent to me,
A toilet roll, some pasta and a set of PPE,
An IOU for Nandos, a take-out from a pub,
Links to a virtual disco, held at a virtual club.

He painted me a rainbow,
Blew kisses from the car,
I said to him, “Try harder,
“This birthday’s crap so far.”

So he emailed all my best mates,
For a meet-up in the square,
Saying, “Keep apart two metres,
“No one will spot you there.”

Oh damn you, lockdown birthday,
All celebrations cease,
Cos we all got reported,
And fined by the police.

Had I but world enough and time, by Ann Pattison

Photo by Steven HWG on Unsplash

Had I but world enough and time, I’d tell you the secrets of the oceans. We’d visit them all on a sleek yacht, sails fully stretched, swim with dolphins in the Sea of Japan, or climb the Salève and paraglide down. Or take a trip in a balloon, float on the thermals across the Downs till Sutton was a speck in the distance.

But time is running out. My world is shrinking day by day. Last week I could walk a little. Now I’m in a wheelchair. Today may be the last time I can sit in the garden. After that, who knows?

In case I’m not there on your birthday, I’ve chosen a gift for you. It’s a star with your name on  it. Go up the hill and you’ll see it, on the edge of the Milky Way.

I’ve left you some notes, in my bottom drawer. There’s lots I want you to know -about love, life and the little things. Those are the ones that will bother you. Can you wear pink and red together? Should you get a tattoo or have your nose pierced? Which hair colour suits you best?

But I won’t be too far away. There may be a flaw in forever but space and time are part of the same dimension. When you gaze up at your star, the past will be future or even future perfect.

Under Cover of Darkness, by LJ McMenemy

Photo by Manuel Fedele on Unsplash

I can see it. A shimmer in the background. A distant glow. It beckons me, calls to me. Come forward, it says. Anything is possible here. All of your wildest dreams are here for the taking. All you need to do is step forward, one foot in front of the other, bit by bit. The journey will be slow and arduous. You will face danger. You will want to give up many times over. But we will hold your hand, be with you throughout, encouraging you towards us. You will emerge changed, a more complete individual, with more to give and more to receive. You will live in abundance and never go wanting. Come forward and be with us, here in the light.

But suddenly lightning, and wind, and rain. Dark clouds form over the path until I can barely see the door and its enticing glow. Sleet lashes at my eyes, rendering any vision useless. That glorious, nurturing voice grows ever-distant, now just a whisper barely audible above the cacophony of stormy weather.

I glance back to where I’ve come from. That path is dry, cracked through with wrinkles you could put your leg through. No green shoots of hope push through the ground; the land is barren and neglected. A tumbleweed crosses a few paces ahead, pushed on by the whistling wind that’s growing stronger by the minute, willing my feet to head back to safety, to where I’ve come from, a permanent twilight where I’m always just out of reach, just a little too late. I can see the horizon threatening the end to this twilight, to bring a permanent darkness, and I could easily just let the wind push me, let it carry me to the safety of the known. I also know that I would be forever trapped in the dark, a lone figure wandering barren forevermore.

There is nothing to keep me there, yet my head and my heart will me to return to it. It’s safe there. It’s known. It’s comforting. It’s not the greatest way to live, but I know what I’m in for. I understand the perils. I can prepare and I can deal with it the way I’ve always dealt with it: hide, bury my face in the fur of my black dog, and wait for it to clear. Forever waiting.

Above the wind, the light tries one more time: Don’t give up, it cries. We are waiting here for you. We love you. We need you. Come to the light and start anew. You do not have to hide anymore.

But the light is getting further away, and the darkness is a blanket, a shelter from the storm. I see the passage, and the door I must open to reach the light. Its glow is getting dimmer.

The black dog sits by my side. I stand on the precipice, unable to move.

All work © the respective author, 2020

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