Thursday, 24 December 2009

Eleven ways of looking at Christmas

Tomorrow you'll take me.
Sever the ground I live in, cut the parts I've grown in.
Promise to bathe me in moonlight,
yet I have no trust in beams.

Tomorrow you'll send me,
net my arms and splinter fingertips-
bruise my pines and watch me blink in the brightness of the headlights
whilst I'm carried through the dark.

Tomorrow you'll clothe me,
as Samaritans do wounds
and I'll feel the liquor burn my bark
as you stand me in the pot.

Tomorrow I'll watch you
as you bring in the boxes,
stack them high against the fireplace
and touch me with your eyes.

I'll feel the whispers of the skin
as I am dressed with gold and silver,
reflecting light as I am known to do
when dewdrops lick my skin.

Tomorrow you'll crown me,
raise the stars above my head
and turn the switch
to light my body.

Tomorrow you'll leave me,
let me wait for legend's footsteps
'till I feel him underneath me,
laying gifts upon my feet.

I'll hear him- soft as cobwebs
but the spider nonetheless,
for his presence is surprising
and the children are his flies.

Tomorrow I'll be wakened
by the first, pure cries of youth,
sending shivers down the breadth of me
and raising hairs along your neck.

For now though, I wait here,
in the shadow of my fathers
as the sun tips its light towards the frost encrusted lake,
so that I may sleep within the winds.

As birdsong filters through my pines
I close an ear and halt the world.
Thinking of the time
when I will be with you. Tomorrow.


Ah, screw this. Here I am, alone and cold, crouching in the snow outside the window of a house that looks like it belongs in an M&S commercial. You know the ones, the ones with the brightly lit house with ‘Santa Stop Here’ signs everywhere with the living room light on. Then the camera zooms in on the window and there’s a happy family inside all sharing a turkey and then a fat guy breaks in and gives them all presents. It makes me sick; I mean whose house is really like that?

Anyway, this house here is the same except the people inside aren’t happy. The mom’s in a corner, cradling her two children who are crying and screaming – whilst their dad paces the floor, wielding a frying pan, pausing every so often to threaten them with it. It’s times like this when I realise my life isn’t so bad. At least I can’t argue with anyone or get attacked by someone who was supposed to be my partner.

At least they’re warm though, whilst I’m freezing to death out here. I wonder if next door will give me some food. I stand up and begin making away back across the garden to the icy road, and all of a sudden the house goes completely silent. I know that can’t be good, so I carry on leaving until I heard footsteps rapidly approaching me, crunching loudly in the snow. I turn around and see the man running towards me, raising his frying pan and preparing strike me down. He hits me right on the face and I fall down onto the ground.

Next thing I know I’m in a hospital with two broken ribs, a fractured skull and no teeth.

Isn’t my Christmas Eve turning out to be great?


“Run!” he shouted out to the factory below him.

The hundreds of small elf like creatures worked their way, packing, producing, promising that the work would be done. It was close to midnight and they had to be off soon. They didn’t have long left. Not long at all.

The main elf could see the end; he could see the last few packages that were being placed onto the conveyor belt – even they had a long way to go. Yet finally, the last parcel (a blue toy; something like that) moved quickly through boxing, wrapping and the bow workshop, until it was done.

“Stop!” he shouted, waving his hands out. There was a click and all the machinery switched off; he rushed down the stairs into the main part of the factory. Admiring the huge stack of presents before him, all shapes and sizes, he looked at the clock again. Nearly midnight, and they were done, on time – for once.


Like a thief in the night, that’s how it feels sometimes –
carried through the air, icy winds biting,
the hooves of the deer onward rushing,
my flight, manic, obsessive, never, ever stopping.

Every settlement we come to,
every chimney we fasten the sleigh to,
every dark room I traverse,
knows of my presence, yet misses me every time.

They turn a blind eye to shadows on the roof,
a deaf ear to sleigh bells in the snow –
a collective agreement to let me intrude and pass

And I need that –
how else could I get this job done,
how else could I discharge this responsibility
I claim for myself?

When it feels like the hopes of the world are resting
on these gloves,
these leather straps,
these poor overworked boots.


Christmas Eve,
A night of peace,
Mince pies munched by happy teeth,
I hang; I wait, on a wardrobe door,
Centimetres, millimetres from the floor.

I’d been locked up,
I’d been asleep,
Hidden in a basement, in the deep.
Now I’m free to do my job,
And collect the presents for owner, Bob.

The night creeps in,
And my heart does pause,
At the sight of mister Santa Claus,
Then I wait, with my giant sack load I lay,
‘Till Bob awakes on Christmas Day.


My eyelids flickered open, taking in the unexpected darkness. Moaning, I gradually twisted my head so that I faced the clock. The lights softly flashed 1am. I let out a short gasp as a quick burst of excitement ran through me; you know the feeling, that overwhelming sensation when your heart is pumping and your belly, dancing.

“It’s Christmas.” I whispered to myself as the words echoed off the walls and bounced back again, finally sinking in. I felt a wide smile spread across my face, as my eyes lit up in the darkness of the cold winter morning.

My mind felt like a beehive, buzzing with a zillion little thoughts, all wanting to come out. Had Santa been yet? What delightful gifts awaited me under the Christmas tree? Did he like the cookies I made him? The intensity was almost unbearable, as was the desire that was building up inside me. Impatience soon got the better of me as I gently peeled my covers from my body, and swiftly snatched up my housecoat. Tiptoeing across my bedroom and reaching for the door, I slowly and silently placed my hand over the knob and began to twist. Hand pulling the door towards myself I cautiously stepped out into the total darkness of the hallway.

Just as my eyes were adjusting, a sudden sound from below caught my attention; my head snapped round and the pumping of my heart grew faster. I stopped immediately, focusing all my attention on picking up any other sounds that would clue me as to what was going on downstairs. Footsteps? Rustling of…paper? Suddenly it hit me. Only one person could possibly be wandering around my living room at this time of night, and most importantly this time on Christmas night.

I lurched towards the banister, unconcerned with the racket I was making, when a familiar voice suddenly sounded. I stopped dead in my tracks. A frown painted itself on my forehead as my ears strained to hear the muffled whispering. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but I knew who was downstairs. I didn’t understand. Why would mummy and daddy not be bed? I heard them settle down earlier. Maybe they were talking to Santa. That had to be it. I doubted they would want to be disturbed.

However, curiosity overwhelmed my conscience telling me to go back to bed. I crept to the very edge of the banister and peered over the edge. That’s when I saw it.
My jaw dropped as my belly began to dance again, only this time not in excitement. This time in disappointment and hurt and anger. This time in that feeling that you have just discovered that you been betrayed by your best friends. Tears began streaming down my face as I saw my parents unloading presents and placing them neatly under the tree.

I know I was only six years old but a part of me died that night. Yes, call me melodramatic, but Christmas will never be the same now that I know the truth about dearly beloved Santa Claus.


Sitting in my tree alone: standing out, silvery green, my cream berries blend in with the snow. In a farm: business done. My brothers and sisters gone to find families of their own, make joy.

Hearing shouts reflecting off the bare branches around me, I see a father and son run through the trees singing a song. They sit. My tree welcomes the warmth on its roots. I listen. They are silent. Gone are the signs of mirth. Dropped like a mask.

I hear a sound; soft sobbing. They boy buries his head in his father’s chest. The sobs muffled by the thick coat. The father also sighs, also mourning. On Christmas morning! No one should be so unhappy.

The father looks up to the heavens as if wishing to see some new light that will encourage him. He sees me resting on high. Expecting disappointment, I m shocked to see his eyes brighten. He points for his son. They relieve me from my perch. Swallowing their tears, they put on a brave face once more with carols.

I see their loved one, mother and wife; they tie me above her bed as she sleeps. I watch her as she wakes, greeted by her anxious family. She struggles to sit up. A white clad lady supports her and checks a screen. Her pale face looks more alive as she sees me: standing out, silvery green, my cream berries blend in with the ceiling.


I’d been here so long now I’d lost track of time in this darkness. I didn’t understand what was happening; first I had been sitting as happy as any other present on a shelf. Until suddenly a hand shots out and grabbed me, putting me in a basket full of all sorts of noisy objects.

After a couple of hours bumping around, I was taken out of the basket and smothered in paper. I don’t understand what had I done wrong to be tortured in this way. I was stuck in this paper, covered in darkness all alone. All I could do was wait, and pray that someone would free me from my solitude soon.

Just when I was on the verge of giving up on seeing the light of day again, I felt a surge of excitement around me. Someone lifted me up with careful hands, and slowly peeled my wrapping away. The first thing I saw was a child, their face brimming with happiness as they looked down at me.

I’m finally free, and I feel I’ll never be alone again.


I lay there on the plate, waiting.

Just waiting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. It had never happened to me before. I’d always been looked after, and watched while others went in my place. But I had to make a decision. My date had come.

WAIT! What was that? A noise? A creaking floorboard, the rustling of paper. Ooohh, how exciting...

I wondered what was going to happen next. No one knew, you see. People would volunteer for this courageous event, but none of them ever returned to tell the tale. I’d wondered what was special about it. That was one of the reasons I’d finally volunteered for it. It was supposed to be an honour. Only the elders knew the truth, but I don’t like them, they’ve gone past their best before date – we need some new ones.

I was about to find out.

The noise got louder, closer.

I felt a tingle of anticipation run around my crust and felt the sugar crystals on top shake slightly. I felt myself being lifted up and warm air passed over me. I was slid out of my skin and suddenly, pain! Pain like I’ve never felt before, hit me out of the blue.

Now I knew what was so special about it.


Irene bustled into the living room, as she did, everyday, with a trolley full of hot drinks and Rich Tea biscuits.

“All right, everyone?” she asked brightly, the red Santa’s hat perched at an angle on her head emphasising her jovial nature.

The nearest figure looked up half-heartedly but the others ignored her. They were all sitting in a semi-circle around the television set, drool running down their flabby chins. Some had their eyes closed but their chests moved up and down with a regular rhythm and their breath left their bodies with gentle wheezes.

Irene placed a white, slightly stained, lace napkin on the table of the man in front of her.

“Here you go, Erik,” she chirped. “A hot cup of coffee, black, just the way you like it, eh? And look! Your daughter’s sent you some new socks for Christmas. Isn’t that nice?”

It was in this manner that Irene moved around the room, addressing each of the residents by name and presenting them with a drink. Presents were also given to each person. Those who had no relatives, or relatives who simply didn’t care, were given a small box of chocolates from Irene herself.

When Irene had finished, she glanced at the TV. A children’s Christmas film was playing.

“How about we change the channel?” she asked. Looking down at her watch she continued, “I think the Queen’s about to give her Christmas Speech. You’d like to hear that, wouldn’t you?”

By the door, Erik nodded vacantly. As was the case when Irene had first entered the room, nobody else responded.

Irene left. It would take about an hour for her elderly clients to drink their drinks, and that was only if they gave it their full concentration. Some would need help, but they could always ring the electronic bell to fetch her from the kitchen.

And so, Irene went back, into that kitchen, to fix the Christmas dinner in her cheery attempt to give these elderly people a fantastic Christmas: one good enough to be their last.


My day had been just dandy: that was, until air began to whisper in my ear, to chill my body hard, until I cannot move.

Oh no.

No, no, no, no, no! This is bad! Really, really bad!

My rigid body can only sink and fall and listen. That blasted wind howls and laughs and skips away and vanishes behind the luminous moon.

Hands try to grab me and stop me as I fall down through the expansive cloud. This is a bit of a rush to be honest. The buzz of the others I know: all of a sudden they are gone from my sight – I can’t see them, I can’t feel them, nor can I hear them. Only a howling and a ferocious ringing. I look around the best I can – I have now taken a beautiful but terrifying form: long pointed arms and tendrils and limbs that form the most unnatural patterns to refract the starlight in the high-up sky and glow white like the cloud I had called home.

I am tumbling fast, down, to where I do not know. My shape spins and twirls as air whispers to me again. Why me? I scream out. My twisting earns me thrown glances that others would call warm, but do nothing to heat my frosty shackles: I am not alone. Others like me tumble down and down and twist and turn and flip and loop and then the air is so angry with yelling that it returns, to slap me across the cheek and shoot me across the low-down sky; it twirls away laughing with a howl.

Is this what it is like to die? Falling for a near eternity until the hostilities end with an abrupt stop and an endless graveyard below us.

Oh dear lord no.


The thing I am approaching is as white as I am. How many are down there? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? Gazillions? Gah!

The unfortunalities of death.


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Newbury Schools' Poetry Competition 2009

We ran our poetry competition for the three Newbury secondary schools (St Bart's, Park house and Trinity) earlier this month, for the third year running. The theme of National Poetry Day this year was 'heroes and heroines', and on Thursday October 8, Borders Newbury again hosted our awards evening and donated prizes.

The Newbury Weekly News were kind enough to cover us, and Anne Diamond, on BBC Radio Berkshire, interviewed Ellie, the Sixth Form winner, the next day. Her show also featured a selection of the shortlisted Sixth Form poems. Dr Keston Sutherland judged the Sixth Form poems - featured below are his top three, followed by the two prizewinners from Key Stage 4, and the two from Key Stage 3.

More will follow!

Cardboard Window - Ellie Reynard

We live behind a cardboard window
And though I know we’re there
I cannot see for being dazzled
By the trifles of Rapunzel’s hair
I am deaf to huff huff puffing
Blind to games of red black hearts
Scribbling over in my then favourite colour, blue
As this book it falls apart

Once a maid (sort of)
I look again
The window is furling back
Brown wolf chomping down on your axe
As I skin him with my scarlet cape
Spin his fur into a fine dress
Screwing rubies into his nape
And though we prick our fingers once
Just once
The welling of the blood it holds me

I will not make a bargain over any mans name
And if anyone ever presumes to mount MY ivory tower
It’ll be grimm. Real Grimm.

I am red and white and black
And I’m taping down the cardboard flap
Keeping faith in childhood rhymes
My hiding hero
Laughing at my reasons, taking his damn time

Cenotaph - Larissa Ransom

In London stands
Tall pillar of stone
Etched upon this grey
The words of father
Wreathed in laurel crowns
(Grieving victory):
“The Glorious Dead”.

And we look
And salute
And remember
And we add silent words of our own
To the numerous heroes
Whose corpses lie in places
The ones who saved the lives
of those they loved
And the lives we live today.

Pure Woman - Ellen Selby

Of all the places in the world, one would not expect this sweet young girl,
In this fortress to be kept – with lips of fire pure plush red,
(A dollar in her lingerie as she laid upon the bed!)
She gave a virgin’s smile, she flashed a heaving breast,
She flicked her golden braid: (the men focused on her chest),
‘Yoohoo kind sire, young traveller! I noticed you were spying!
I’m in a spot of trouble if you wouldn’t mind some Climbing?’
She swung her hair at the ground at the besotted marquess,
As he took the hair’s silken threads and began to onwards press!
Reaching the top – she grabbed him quick, entwined him in her golden hair,
Kissed him hard, harder still, as he was shackled to the chair!
‘O loving Rapunzel!’ he did but cry, as she slapped him from side to side –
‘Am I not the heroic saviour, could you not return the favour?’
Rapunzel as on a shopping spree grabbed his wallet and embroidery!
And as if of super strength, threw the unruly royal wench!
Out of the window, up and beyond, landing in the castle pond.
‘You go home now yer little lecher! If you want some tart that’s pure,
then get some style and shave a little, then improve your looks for sure!’
The prince cried home, Rapunzel snickers, putting the notes safe in her knickers.
She lit a fag, took a smoke, and looked for the next man to make stony broke.

The Hidden Truth - Millie Guille

Screams curdle the essence of your blood.
They stop the rhythmic beatings of the heart;
A skittish pulse forms and throbs
And creeps its way towards the temple.

I saved her from her father’s curse,
His frantic hands clawing fabric folds
And tearing buttons from her shirt
To accompany his morals on the floor.

I was the hero, just ask the girl.
She’ll tell you indirectly though.
Her voice is lost – the truth remains
Buried and clasped between her lips.

Message - Kelly Chapple

I am trapped in an ocean of despair,
Why can’t I find my way?
I feel so transparent,
Yet I still can’t see clearly.
These secrets trapped inside of me
Long to be delivered
But I am lost, floating endlessly nowhere
So I cannot fulfil my duty
I guess I’ll just wait here
For a helping hand or a gentle breeze of encouragement.
Maybe the tides will turn
And my luck will change.
Then my hero, The Sea
Can take me where I need to be.

Poppy Field - John Creed

Red are the poppies that remember the dead,
Cold are the gravestones that hide them.
Deadly are shells, flying overhead,
Death is the word that defines them.

Cream of the crop are sent to war,
Broken are the minds that return.
Death appears at a raven’s caw.
Red are the flames that burn.

Fields of mud, fields of blood,
War’s face looms its ghastly head.
Fields of stone, fields of bone,
Countless are the tolls of the dead.

Heroes will rise and heroes will fall,
The corpses will slowly grow rotten.
They kept on going through it all,
But in time their tombs are forgotten.

If I should die, think only this of me…
That it was not through lack of endeavour.
In time, the tombs will wear away,
But the names are remembered forever.

My Brother Thinks He Is Superman - Sam Miller

My brother thinks he is Superman,
Swinging from tree to tree,
Killing all the Taliban,
And he has only just turned three.

My brother thinks he is Superman,
Dressing up all day,
Playing with his best mate Stan
Who has a super ray.

My brother thinks he is Superman;
He is really just a pest.
The other day he rescued Gran
While she was having a rest.

My brother thinks he is Superman
In his yellow, red and blue:
He has a really clever plan,
But still needs a potty to poo.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Light in Darkness - Ellen MacIver

Sinking in a stream of darkness
Black engulfs me
Fighting too hard
It’ll never be ok


You pull me out
The strong hand of hope
Whilst I was flailing
You pull me out
Into a light so bright

Heart beats as you hold my hand
In this new light
Contented in this new light
It will be ok, if only for a while

I’ve got light in my darkness now.

An Ex-Poem (with its Feet Nailed to its Cage) - Chris Brown

Where love is not, poets do…
And those who can’t? I hear they teach
Pupils with nothing else to do
But stare, solemn, on some grey beach.

The unknown touch of reddened lips
Is in all detail somehow rhymed
By those who, in darkness, sit
Scribbling that “The world is kind”.

O unkind world, O unpaid bills!
Where are the ways, where are the wills?
If green is fresh, and love is red,
Then the colour they make is I, so led
To memorise the sonnet’s form
When all I feel is hate and scorn.
Which words are mine, which were I told?
The air bites shrewdly, it is very cold.

Skinned amongst the prickle-stones,
In some desert of the future,
With unpaid bills and refused loans,
I am, torch-lit, the poet unknown.

With the grunt of twine and twist of knife,
I trap my ink in these self-bound tomes,
Please, Fame, don’t come with the end of life;
Beyond stained walls groans the neighbours’ wife.

Visions - Chris Brown

Jump for the moon; find yourself in the
Depths of blue-green water; clouds of
Ecstatic sand brushing the pearl afloat.
Can you touch the ground again? Or will
The white-green eye pull your fingers from
That lamppost and let you fly from the spotlight;
Past the clock and the beating of your heart. Then –
You can join the universe; soul-bound at the edges;
Where the voices of the dead tattoo signals
Into the night; revelations for the stars to
Align against; a magnetism that is found in
Forgotten vessels; interfered with by the
Burning masses; deciding fates by the chewing
Of herbs. White-eyed and blue with time, forcing
Breath from the trees, the mother-god prunes her
Universe-pet, watches another drama. Jump, and
Meet her face-to-thought. She is telling a story
With angels; They sit, the Three, and wind paradoxes
From the air; build the thoughts of men. Jump, and
You will see dead grey hands left clinging to cold metal.
The clock ticks the life from them, and the star-eyed
Angels sit amongst their knowledge. Jump, and in a
Cloud of dust, reach for the pearl in the green-blue depths.

Borrowed Crown - Larissa Ransom

Sitting on the bed
after light has gone out
of the darkness.
My courtiers surround

Me. Worship me
and idol me.
They hypnotise me into

When day breaks, I am mortal once more.
The Sun is King
And I am but the lowly worshipper
Until night returns again.

Ode to a Lone Lamp Post - Larissa Ransom

Light flickers,
In a whimper
it is gone –
surrendering to the dark
which consumes,

Night's Realm - Larissa Ransom

Two dim bulbs glow
amongst the darkness.
shadows writhe:
trees, arms knotted,
reaching toward sky
like beggars on the street.

Yet they are not the lowliest beings
during the reign of Night.

In the heavens
dark grey smudge hides
the moon,
the stars,
And the two dim bulbs do flicker,

And the mouse,
scurrying in Autumn’s late harvest,
does not see
the threat above.

Owl strikes.

Darkness - Elizabeth Barnes

freezing icy
numbing darkness
chills you through
right to the core
but still
one fleeting thought you think
where is the light
I see no more

Pitch-black darkness
All around you
Nowhere light
No help around
But there
a small and floundering pin point
struggling through
without a sound

growing bigger
very slowly
resisting all
and growing bright
and now
a brand new dawn is breaking
hello to day
goodbye to night