Second Light Network 2009 Poetry Competition

Copyright of these poems remains with the poets

1st prize: Lynne Wycherley

The Lightning-Horse

Scored in the land,
flash-lit in mind, a solo
rune of light

the Horse stares
from sun-swept chalk
where larks, quanta,

animate the blue,
brief lees
in its luminous eye.


Sifters of dust;
the blink of a trowel.
They brush atoms

from its burning flanks,
tweeze a hairline
story from its hide.

Who will assay it,
read the decay?
Time shivers in electron traps,

feldspar, rubidium’s
slow play,
Roman through Iron,

Iron Age to Bronze
and the digital clock
still spinning.

Now, then –
how it leaps the span –
white lightning.


Through lancets, a sash
of light, the reedy
scratch of a quill

mons alba equi.
Now the Horse whispers
in a house of prayers,

canonical hours,
its outline
rust in vellum.


The scrapers climb
in seven-year waves,
undressing the light

as they sing, backs bent
to its anode arc,
fair-goers behind them –

crab-apple faces,
flagons running dry ’
and all the while

its midsummer firn
melting, returning,
through green.


In the spring wind,
our breath blurred
with the quickened grass

and the cloud-chamfered Horse
lay dreaming
under the ninon

imprint of our skin;
our link
harebell-delicate, young

as if we too
could dare the leap, be
bared to earth, to stars.


It lies, a chalk vein,
in the leaf of our love,
cordite divine,

this fuse we’d live from
even as we age –
a stellar trace

on the startled hill:
                            (‘mons alba equi’ – from Abingdon Cartulary)

Lynne Wycherley

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2nd prize: Margaret Wilmot



                                Sepia, said the homeopath.
                             What you need is sepia.

Cuttlefish seep ink in ropy clouds.
Gratefully, the brain
relaxes into its own sea-medium; murky salts.
Dendrites drift and drink, drift and drink. Stuff of miracles.
A lemon-tree half-glimpsed behind
a city gate sends its axon
deep into the sepia strata which cover
the face of the earth.

And God said, Let there be lemons. Let
knobs of gold hang all over the heavens. Let there be
suns beyond telling.

Light flooded the yellow kitchen.
In his cage the canary awoke and hopped off
his perch for the sheer pleasure of swinging back on again;
then honed his beak, puffed out
his tiny throat feathers and addressed himself
to the business of day: singing.

Light danced on a bleached bone.


                                After a painting by Victor Brauner

In the beginning there were jars
and jars, and a canary singing. Hermetically sealed,
said Grandma; her slippers sprouted little wings as
she rested from her labours. Light
slanted through the apricots, cherries, plums,
and was transformed. The evening sun
trilled notes dyed pomegranate.
Alchemy. The knotted hands
wrought, and look.

From the palette seep tilted planes. Legs
and lips, eye-breast and arrow-heart dance in
a delicacy of desire. Male and Female
paints he them; see we them.
The oils glow. Forgotten the Hermetica.
Thief, herald . . . Even Hermes
might not simply take and give.
Necessity charged him: string
the tortoise-shell, distil the music.

This is the matter. How each space leaks
and spills, stains and weeps into its own alembic.
How the summer light nuzzles a peach from
out its leaf and touches its fuzz with gold.

Margaret Wilmot

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3rd prize: Kay Syrad

"Registering their flora,/their fauna"

                                from Elizabeth Bishop, Crusoe in England

The fog-harvesting beetle has smooth, peaked surfaces
     with troughs of water-repelling wax –
it tilts its back and water-droplets roll into its mouth;

the larvae of the stag beetle live inside dead oak for five years;
     in the iridescent blue beetle the scales are stacked,
layer upon layer, light accumulating;

only in polarised moonlight can the dung beetle
     roll its ball in a straight line;
and the water-beetle carries fish eggs on its fins:

and so she makes you wait,
     her colours placed, geometry in the fold-up
chairs in lantern light – two different lanterns, the lights

swinging, and there – the rose red rock roses;
     listening, and waiting, not even waiting – until all
the winged Madeira beetles have been blown out to sea.

Kay Syrad
poem first published in Poetry Review, Vol.99:2, Summer 2009

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