Best Local Poem 2005 - Peter Hinchliffe (Ilfracombe)


Old memories, on demand, are painted fables,
Not history at all, but pictures in the mind
Of happenings not weeks by years apart.
For then is never now and time disables sequence.

Days silted over by long, sleepless,
Fearful nights are colourless as dull defiant winter
And as by winter streams are washed away
To merge with watchful endless summer. 

In memory it seems the city's villages
Had always sheltered in a fortress walled
By wire cat's cradles hanging from a studded
Sky, and this must be, like other sieges, overcome. 

A vision too of nights when swords of light
Swaying, swinging, dancing, flooding the low
Fat clouds with lakes of swirling pearly
Beauty trapped high sparkling gnats in bright display. 

Caught, and passed on for mile on thundering flaring
Mile while distant bombs cried long in their descent
Cascading screams each shorter than the one before
Until, at last, unwarned the old familiar walls reduced to quaking silhouette. 

But catch a breath of unlit gas or hear the frantic clink
Of bricks and now becomes as then and, with
Eyes closed and watering we hear the hymn our dying neighbour
Sang beneath the burning rubble of her home and smell the burning city.

Judge's comment:

I settled on Memories as my pick of the bunch - though wishing it had a more adventurous title. I found it took me straight back to the 40s, to the road I used to live in - especially the searchlights in verse 4 picking out the planes. In fact the more I read this poem, the more I am drawn into it.

Edna Eglinton (Local winner 2004)