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3RD PRIZE: ILA COLLEY

The Civic Sinking Society

In the eternal Craggy Wood ropes shrug from shoulders that are unnerved
by the punctuality of dawn who is laying the table with hay bales
and drystone linings. here is a tired eyelid. you will not draw this postcard
though the weight of a line turns you on. instead you are looking into the abyss
of a traffic light following its predetermined cycle. every Monday
there is a chance to end it all in the estuary of a coffee shop where the bearded man
consumes himself and you pay a pretty penny to see. you think he would love you
if he knew how to crop and resize without losing quality: enlarge you
from a thread to a thigh, the quick transmission of cold glass keeping the cakes
correctly inflated. blush and remember your predetermined cycle. the weight
of a line carries both ways, you are a complex system of pipes, a vessel that is brief
and endless. you are not a river and yet you will take what you are given.

Soon, over Staveley, the sky will clot and Craggy, the giant head of broccoli
that looms over the recreation ground, over the varicosing valleyward river,
will send its condolences to Gowan Terrace with one pulmonary refurbishment
to its canopy. it is precisely this kind of disaster that has all the drains gaping
on a Saturday. your mother sends an sms from underwater, you are so distraught
you leave Jeff Buckley mid-croon on the no. 2, headed for the coast and back,
following its predetermined cycle. you pay a pretty penny to see his face again.
he loves you and he is dead: this is not coincidence. now all your dreams
are funerary topographies, a database of love lost, the Victorian premature;
each thumbnail a headstone or the other way around. in a reply to your mother
you point out that we are all immortal, there is no point in dying anyway.
she says the river took the last bridge, I’m out of milk, I’m stranded. moses wept.

Behind Bluebell Wood something is being kept alight while the water unshelves
hundreds of skimming stones, stuns the civic picket, slips under the covers
of coppice land; the village is an abandoned scratch card. but all you can think of is Jeff,
a whole weekend shacked up in somebody else’s pocket. he’s a changed man,
paranoid, his promises carry both ways. it’s Monday again and you want to end it all
but just minimise him: a thumbnail, a forgotten fever. blush your way back to reality,
pay a penny to rattle the pipes: a bearded man touches you through a cold glass
cabinet, from a thigh to a thread. you are a river, you are not an institute but a bounty,
the street shadows you like an uncertain electrocardiograph. you stammer down
the phone “Yes, life is a heavy burden!” nothing is given, everything is taken.
your mother lays the table, following her predetermined cycle. it will be a long time
before you go home. the village will be an estuary. there will be a garage
and a coffee shop. the room will open like a greetings card: condolences.

 

ILA COLLEY is an undergraduate student of Architecture at the University of Edinburgh. Recently her poetry has been published in Butcher’s Dog and hotdog. Not so recently she was a two-time winner of the Foyle Young Poets award. That had nothing to do with dogs. She is also a Writing Squad graduate. Her first poems were folk songs and everything was painfully elegant. Now she is fascinated by the plot holes and misunderstandings of daily life and applies herself to this heritage.

 I’m so happy to be placed in this competition; The Civic Sinking Society was written in pieces and catalogues a geography of growing older in unplanned ways. - Ila Colley

The winning poems were chosen (blind!) by Faber poet Sam Buchan Watts from 100 entries worldwide and will be printed in our PBS Summer Bulletin poetry magazine. Find out more about the Poetry Book Society and half price student membership here.

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