Bedford Open Poetry Competition 2009 – 3rd Prize
A Zoo full of Unicorns
This is somewhere else we’ve never been,
where what is not was once the entire case,
a place for the enraptured and their gaze,
antic, frantic, wonderful, serene.
In reality this is so much more
than creatures from a fabled latitude,
happened upon, like spirits in a wood
or lights that flicker on a tousled mere.
Stooping to browse on acorns or on corn
someone scattered then slipped out of sight,
their delicacy is a sort of strength,
like the brittle twist of sparkling horn,
perpetually moonlit, white on white.
Creation never went to such a length.
I’m never quite certain how these things happen. (Who was it said, ‘If I knew where poems came from – I’d go there’?) But if pressed, I’d say it is, of course, a poem about the power of the imagination, with the unicorn doing what it has always done best, i.e. standing-in for the rarefied, the mysterious, the otherworldly. As far as the zoo part goes, it struck me that if the imaginative force of a single poem could be symbolised by a single unicorn, then maybe a book of poems was rather like a zoo full of them, and that was a sufficiently strange and delightful image to spark a poem. Anyway, that’s my take on things, and, for the time being at least, I’m sticking to it.