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Cell of Phantoms by runner-up Charlotte Buckley is 'compelling, mysterious and enigmatic. The language is at once disturbing yet apt. I found myself hooked from the first line, At night, I dream a dingo is growing inside me… I feel the wet slick fur writhing. It kicks/ out of my breast spills red dirt. What a brilliant conceit to articulate a phantom pregnancy.' (Malika Booker, 2019 Judge)


Cell of Phantoms


At night, I dream a dingo is growing inside me.
My stomach globes, tight against the widening
of its jaws, claws that puncture, wound.
I feel the wet slick of fur writhing. It kicks.
Out of my breasts spills red dirt.

In the morning, the baby is gone.
Steadily, the daylight carries it off
until the cries are too distant to track
and I am no longer home to a universe.
This is a clinical condition.

There are bars on my window that stop
me leaving, stop the rotation of the world
about it’s axis. They bind minutes from hours,
mothers from daughters from dogs.
Hysteria comes from the Greek word for uterus.

I know the natural order of things; colours
arranging themselves from light to dark,
pure states, adult children burying elderly parents,
but I no longer follow such laws. Do not get upset.
Entropy often starts with a single traumatic event.

There are feelings the body gives the mind,
imagined sensations that originate in the spine,
neurological, and yet see how divine this ghost
of a thing. By the campfire light it is easier
to see spirits; a phantom, a dingo, my child.



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