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Posted on December 05 2019

The 3rd Prize in the Women's Poetry Competition was awarded to Alex Toms, judge Malika Booker commeting: 'The lyric’s power lies in the contrast between two voices, the mythical character Daedalus and his therapist, whose italicised voice prompts the narrative forward. The poet humanizes Daedalus’s troubled figure, by situating him in a therapy session. There is a realism here that is both vulnerable and revealing. The alluring language, and metaphorical attention to detail gives this poem its power and made me engage with it again and again luxuriating in lines like: A blur of white… beating like a moth or a belly…radiant like the harvest moon.'


Daedalus in Therapy


Tell me about your wife’s pregnancy


She’d wait for me on the hill each evening,

her belly low and full, radiant

as the Harvest Moon. We’d walk home arm in arm,

moths softening the air around her.

Ever the craftsman, I marvelled at Gaia’s design:

a pair of compasses couldn’t produce

a more perfect curve. She was a pithos,

traded from the East, our child stoppered inside,

intangible as rare perfume.

We’d talk in our garden till late, woozy

with the scent of jasmine and our dreams.


Did you create much during this time?


Yes. My fingers seemed charged with extra life,

each digit a fidgety homunculus, feverish

with purpose. I whittled rattles

and wooden horses, sanded spinning tops –

planets for a plump fist to set in motion.

It was only when my wife offered her stomach

and I felt a small foot kick, that I became still.

I longed to see our child in the labyrinth

of his mother’s womb, so I devised

a copper mirror to peer into her depths,

see our son reflected back. . .


What did you see?


A blur of white in darkness, something smoke-formed,

at its centre something whiter still,

coming and going, beating like a moth. . .


Go on


I saw what most parents see when they behold

their not-quite child for the first time:

a flutter of hope amid seething chaos.

But what I failed to see, and what haunts me at night

when I replay our escape in my mind,

cursing my decision to flee during the day, 

is how much my son resembled a fallen feather,

floating on the sea. 



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