From the archive
A selection of the works which won the inagural Picador poetry prize
For a bridge suicide
From four, six, eight feet, maybe even ten,
water’s a giving, all-embracing thing.
Above that, it begins to harden, starts
to slap, to frighten till by fifty or sixty
limbs get broken. Still, even at that height,
you feel if you just got your entry right
you could elicit softness, could slip in
and it would melt to kindness there and then…
And yet, there is a point, even so,
when water’s transformation is complete,
a point at which the whole of the earth’s surface
is uniformly unforgiving. As
she neared the top of the bridge’s central stanchion
this was a point she recognised. And let go
Tables for two
Sometimes we eat at a broad, thick farmhouse table,
with drawers above our laps
where cold, bone-handled knives lie waiting.
Sometimes we eat at a bird-legged, bistro table,
knowing one slip
could send everything crashing.
Sometimes at my parents’ chipped formica table
which once seemed so vast
my brother and I’d play ping-pong on it.
Sometimes at an antique rosewood one
which has this central piece
that opens out of nowhere like it’s flowering.
And I was afloat, on board what I took
to be an ark, an ark which housed a world,
a perfect one I felt, where everything
had at long last secured its long-lost half:
apple pips paired with baby squirrels’ eyes,
rained-on puddles with rings in a jewelry box,
contour lines showing gentle hills with birch grain,
space with time, and so on; and you of course,
you were there, yet you refused to sit with me,
choosing instead the company of doves
(paired unconvincingly I thought, at first,
with snow). Sending one out, you expressed hope
it might come back with something in its beak…
At which point my mind cleared – and that was that.
Portrait of a woman in the first weeks of pregnancy
Not a study in consolidation.
But a woman holding out a slate before her,
a slate upon which sits a drop of mercury,
a drop that wants to stick together,
wants to come apart… A woman who
stands on a boat of some kind, running
at every pitch, scampering at every yaw,
to stop the drop from slipping, spilling,
lest, if it should fall, it would become
a million grief-filled molecules breathed in for ever more…
A woman who, after a good while of this,
is beginning to get the gist, to grin.
A woman who may even be dancing