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1st prize - 2018 poet of the year

Photograph of Steven John

Steven John lives in The Cotswolds, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, where he writes poetry and short stories. He's had work published in poetry pamphlets and online magazines including Bangor Literary Review, Cabinet of Heed and Slad Brook Chapbook. Steven has also read from his work at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and The Writer's Room on Corinium Radio. He says the passage of time and landscape are his main sources of inspiration. Steven Tweets @StevenJohnWrite

Dragonfly by Steven John, England

We pick empty nymph from the duckweed
whilst kingfisher and emerald colours hover
over our fingers. We say the same thing
each year, how did this come out of this

You finger the shell like your own mortality
unimaginable and grotesque
Your belief is in the uncoiled dragon
that skims the amniotic water

You disrobe from your chrysalis
before my unready eyes
dry your wings, unfurl your beauty
around the birth pond, practise

Over my wrinkled hands,
alight for a bearing, then ascend
over these paternal walls
wings beating invisibly.

Up and Over Bacon Butty by Steven John

'Up and Over' was me walking with their fragile bodies
in my hands as they squirmed on the rope-swing seat.
My arms in the air, then letting them go over my head
to plunge down over the gush of water,
and back up above the far side of the stream,
high across the sun that dipped behind the hills.
We'd scream - it's an 'Up and Over Bacon Butty'
and laugh each time as if the thought was newly minted.
The bacon butty had no relation to anything.

I hung the swing on the day we moved in,
tying one end of rope to a hammer
and throwing it like Thor over a branch
that beamed from the leaning ash.
They thought I was a God
and I felt like Tarzan with my Jane watching on.
The minute I stowed the garden tools
they'd yell that mad name and I'd push them,
high, and let go, until my arms were jelly.

When we began to see worry, when dreams grew weeds
The garden acre swung heavy around our necks
I saw the branch of ash as firewood
she saw danger that would snap and crush heads.
There is no memento of that rope-swing,
'Up and Over Bacon Butty' was a charm never bottled
but sung out loud, on the flying spur of the moment
and once the spell was broken
only the dull incantation of time took its place.

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