Bedford Open Poetry Competition 2009 – 2nd Prize
Even the shore is frozen: ice, thick-laid
silences streams from dunes that fringe the beach
as puffed-up gulls perform a masquerade.
Nothing is as it was: a sudden screech
distils in Arctic air, sharp cry of cold.
Reality is distant, out of reach.
Except that stick: high stormy tides have rolled
and left one there for me. An inner fire
drives me to pick it up. It turns to gold.
The alchemy of foraging – desire
as ancient as those caves warms my right hand.
I’ll find another, better, thicker, dryer.
There’s always just one more, the finite sand
stretches for ever now. I’m not afraid
of nightfall on a quest I never planned.
Few of us need to gather sticks or logs to warm our houses nowadays when central heating does the job quickly and conveniently. However, in weather such as we have had this winter (and last) atavistic instincts can take over and the drive to collect fuel becomes obsessive. I found myself weighting down plastic bags on Newport estuary in Pembrokeshire until my arms ached and my hands froze: there was always one more perfect log just within reach to be carried home, slowly but triumphantly. Terza rima seemed the ideal form to suggest this chain-like activity.