Persona Poetry Competition, Winning Entries

First: Gail Mosley

Betty Has Her Hair Done

good morning
or afternoon
am I the right day

it’s not my birthday is it
you’re kidding me
I must be 49 again

my hair used to be ginger
you know
they called me Ginger

is it my birthday
are you sure
what date is it

October 21st
that’s my birthday
is that today

is it really
49 again
if only

they’d shout
come on Ginger

come on Ginger
you can do it
I could run too

Gin Gin Gin
good run

am I done
for today
beautiful again

Second: Andrew Lambert

The elf hex

An elfshot in the form of an elven curse, to be written as a looping ribbon snaked all round a curse stone, to be placed in the centre of the Merrion Centre in Leeds.

You, you man, you nay say,
you tin tit nit wit, you
say it’s all one—the sod

and the sky, the oak nut
and the axe, the pin tip
and the eye you see out.

You mix art and pox, fly
and spy, gig and gag, law
and war, awe and raw oil.

You say you can buy our
way out, can cut the box.
Big ask—but one big gun

can get you out any fog,
off any fix. Hah! The big
biz bio pod—our new ark—

has not yet put out one
new age oar! Elf and man
ply one sad sun got air

yet the one can not own
for the two. The bee, the
bat, the owl may one day

not fly. Elf and man are
odd, are foe. Let sky saw.
Let dew dry. Let lip maw.

Let yes but. Let cot tip.
Let bed pit.Let all hot
ash and ice. Let man end.

Third: Joanna Bucktrout

‘Dating Game.’

Her on-screen questions pulse.
‘What makes you laugh’, she asks.
‘What turns you on?’
I tap my teeth…
The lifetime’s list is endless.

I must be transparent, no point else.
‘I have my own hair – it’s greying now’.
And my own teeth. Not all, but most.

Decide to mention the scar on my chin,
concealed under stubble.
‘A bold cicatrice won by derring-do?
Or a fall from my bike?
You decide.’

She likes modern jazz – a popular choice.
It’s supposed to be cool, that’s why they tick it.
‘Me?’ I reply, ‘a Motown medley, river deep, mountain high.
Reminds me of groovier times.’

‘You have an ex’ I say, ‘didn’t he suit?’
I could never stockpile enough trust for the happy-ever-after.
Two stand-outs in a handful, is my romantic history.
One followed the hippie trail, the other went into finance.

Maybe I should be more optimistic, glass half full.
Three could be a magic number.
I’ll know more after tonight – ‘See you at eight.’

Annavation award: Sue Ryder


She-one plump round warm-smell waking.
Pad-pad pad-pad pad-pad pulse.
She-one! ear-rub, scruff-scratch, head-bump –
Back-itch, leg-itch, tooth-wash, tongue-rasp, comb.
Hunger is!
Pad-scratch pad-scratch pad-scratch.
Pad-scratch pad-scratch pad-scratch!
She-one plump round! Hunger is!
She-one plump round! Hunger IS!
She-one pad-pad meat-pouch, crunch-meats.
Paw-lick whisker, face, this ear.
Paw-lick whisker, face, that ear.
Again-wash, Again-wash, Again-wash, Wait!
He-one bump-thump big-grown small one!
He-one play noise, he-one pounce come!
shrink. wait. Wait… Wait.
I am. I am. I am. Ear-scratch. WAIT!

Highly Commended: Adelle Kirk

The Apothecary

Wing of dried out bat (no written caveat),
Mix it up together with a chopped up cat,
Tell ‘em it’s a vital med’cine, watch ’em chug an’ choke it down,
With a little bleedin’ for the wound that’s seethin’
With the louse.

Fat from a hanged man (believe it if you can),
They’ll take it an’ they’ll cook it in a fryin’ pan.
Tonic for the gouty mayor; water from the rrroyal bed,
(Sometimes a little bribin’) nothin’ to prescribin’
For the gout.

Eye of newt and frog, tongue from rabid dog,
Sliver of the skin come off a man bein’ flogged,
Spitted thrice beneath the new moon, stirrin’ widdershins awhile,
Put it on a poultice, hopin’ they won’t notice
It’s a fraud.

Hang mice upon the wall (you needn’t be appalled)
It’s a shrinkin’ composition for a man too tall.
Man wi’ warts around his manhood, scratchin’, red, and weepin’ pus,
Charge steeply for the cost of bottled stingin’ wasps
For his itch.

Rotten pile o’ crap, mixed with charcoaled ash,
Will cure you of the symptoms of the devils rash.
Burnt a witch for mixing up ‘erbs, (I do it; “doctor’s orders”)
Fleecin’ you of silver, joinin’ in the guild o’

The women always come, eventually some sum
Of ailments and complainants from the mires and slums,
They come shufflin’, cloaked, and feeble, beggin’ me to save their skins,
An’ I do oblige ’em; know just what to charge ’em
For my time.

All I needed was an iron cauldron (and the lie that I could save their chil’ren)
Everybody come and join me in’t Apothercary’s shop!

Highly Commended: Sunyi Dean

Dedication: Written in memory of a woman who was born a hundred years ago in a remote village in northern China and later emigrated to Hong Kong. She survived the Cultural Revolution, two world wars, including the Japanese invasion and occupation of Hong Kong, and raised three children on her own. On top of that, this lady was functionally illiterate for all of her life, because girls like her were not given an education in those days. The only thing she learnt to read or write was her own name, King Far, which means golden flowers—and so, this piece is named for her.

King Far

I will not live in silent rooms
where all my mothers died;
forgotten women lost in time
feet bound by cultural pride.
I will not drag the tired plow
its sharpness long devoured;
I know the secret of my name—
ancient, golden flowers.

The tides of revolution
wash me down to southern seas
by shores the English bought in blood
to sell their poppy seeds.
I’ll build a home on iron streets
and nest in concrete towers;
far from where my mothers died
I cut my roots, and flower.

A skipper with a paper heart
brought gold to stake his claim;
my daughter, do not trust the men
who take away your name.
Buddha, great unchanging friend
for you the incense burns;
teach my children all the words
that no one let me learn.

War sails into our island port
six thousand shot to silence;
The Japanese are here to break
the spirit of our defiance.
The killing bombs consumed their skin
yet liberated me;
the price of peace is always death
and death’s reward, is peace.

But all things under Heaven pass,
all sorrows gift us hope;
my years unspool to grey and I
give thanks, for growing old.
And when I’m gone, remember me
by that which gave me power;
the secret of my written name—
ancient, golden flowers.