Winner – ‘Fiddler’s Green’ by Laurence Gardiner
“I don’t like the look of them clouds, Pip. There’s a storm coming. And I reckon it’s a fierce one”. She looks up at me, I wonder how much she really understands. I used to take on the odd deckhand, but none were ever as steady as her. I suppose she must be as old as me now. Two old dogs out at sea. I look back to the horizon, the sky is like a huge and hanging bruise. A menacing, dark purple that speaks of violence.
When the storm reaches us, it rolls in hard and fast. Rain lashes down, pounding the deck. The sea is wild, like a pot boiling fast on the stove, lifting our craft and throwing us back down. It’s at times like this you realise man was never meant for the sea. It is only our cunning and hunger that sets us against nature.
As the waves crash over us, water begins to pour in over the prow. I’ve been doing this long enough to know we won’t make it out. Pip is barking furiously at the sky.
“That’s right Pip, we’ll go out singing”. There is a place they say that old sailors go when they die. A green isle with young lasses, strong drink and a fiddle that never stops playing. Where sailors sail no more, dancing ever to the jigs and reels, never tiring. I first heard the song as a boy, collecting glasses in the taverns where sailors and port hands drank in the dark, snatching brief moments of joy where they could.
As we’re swallowed by the deep, I sing out the chorus –
“At Fiddler’s Green, where seamen true,
now finished is their duty,
will dance a jig and down a brew
And pledge to love and beauty”.
Runner up – ‘Canna Lily’ by Andy Gardiner
“I am the voice of Canna.
I am the reed that became Cannis many years ago.
I am greater than Ibis who lived with me on The Nile.
My flower has now left me
I will destroy your fluting voice-box because I am now here.
I will silence your vibrating breath
Your squeezebox lungs will rasp and whistle.
I am the Black Death; I bring your death-rattle”
We left the Mediterranean many moons ago; Cannis, the crew, and the hangers-on. We were on the run because we had offended Ibis. In fact, he will now become your false protection from the plague we bring. You will make masks and wear them so that you will be birds with long curved beaks. The crew, the rats, and the hangers-on left me here in this English estuary and they have all gone to spread the pneumonic word. The grey young lungs will be yellow with blood.
They left me an empty hulk
So they can do their work
They have all run down the boarding plank
To arrive at your gorgeous bank.
I will sit here and rot.
You will sit there and rot.
Until they put you in the ground.
I am the voice of Canna.
My flower has left me, I can bring you no more poetry.
Very few will escape the Black Death, and those who do will be those who can afford to hide away. This will be the saddest thing.
I have done this before, and I will do it again.
I have to do it so that new wood will grow,
and from this new reeds will become green.
From these we will make new oboes, and eventually more poets will come, and they will bring love and song.