Primary Winner 1st Place

My Lockdown Friend by Eden Edlin

In the deep dark woods I have a favourite tree,
It has roots which look like dinosaur feet
and tip tops of branches which are too tall to see,
It looks so old,
It seems so wise,
If it could speak
Would it answer my cries?
"Hey kid,
Don't be afraid,
Everything will be okay,
I have stood here for 200 years,
And seen,
World War 1 and World War 2,
The Great Depression,
The Spanish Flu,
The Holocaust and the Iraq War,
9/11 and people being poor,
Covid-19 is scary and sad,
But it will pass,
It's not so bad,
One day soon it will be gone,
Today will be history,
And life will go on."

Primary Winner 2nd Place

My Ratty, Bratty Best Friends By Rosa Grahl

Tiny noses, peeking from behind my hair,
Pinky tails, whipping through the air.
Tissuey ears, quivering in the breeze,
Blown away at the slightest sneeze.
One with snowy white fur, flame-red eyes,
Like an icy coat, and raspberry pies.
The other with coal-black fur, and matching eyes,
Like a blanket of midnight, and blackberry pies.
Sharp yellow teeth, nibbling away,
I watch the hazelnut fragments spray.
Gaping holes in my favourite hoodie,
I still let them have their daily goodie.
A crimson scratch appears on my hand,
My companions ignore my demand,
Scratching at my sore fingers,
Laughing at me in mocking whispers.
But I scoop them up and cuddle them close.
Nobody knows,
how much I need my ratty, bratty little bros.

Primary Highly Commended

My Friend, my companion By Brandon Ady Martin

I was getting sick of playing with people
Who used to pretend to be my friend
Who would be OK, then being horrible
I decided it had to end.

I never got on with this one kid
I thought he was an idiot at first
Always wanting to fight me
His brain was like it had burst!

Who did he think he was?
Starting a scrap with his made up army,
Shooting me with imaginary guns
I thought he was super barmy!

Then one day on my own I was sitting there,
Minding my own business was a chore.
'I'm bored of armies, do you wanna play tag?' he said
If I would like it I was not sure.

Feeling uncertain we played tag
Then played another game
Hulk, Captain America and Spiderman
We discovered we liked things just the same
Now we've got a little gang
Where no argues, fights or attack
And now I know what it's like to have friends
Who always watch my back.

Primary Highly Commended

A Parrot's Tale By Matilda Stockwell

Magically glistening blue skies
Lush emerald green leaves
Ever shifting rainbow
Friends, Family, chattering, laughing.

Flying through an ash strewn sky
Tree tops terrified as chainsaws
Scream their hatred
Do you even care?

You must make a change
Do it quick
You're taking the air from our lungs
Why don't you see no one wants you around?
Damaging our existences by slaughtering our trees
For your foolish needs

Yet we will all fall together
With no air to breath.

Secondary Winner 1st Place

Three Best Friends By Martha Davey

In a roped off, dusty backstreet; of the bookcase,
In the corner.
Where the walls are a dusky lilac blue,
And you can taste lemongrass oil in the air.

On seats of out-dated copper coins, and rose-gold bulldog clips,
Watched by a red nosed, diamond bellied clown;
Taken as a memory, for something long forgotten.
And a Christmas card, to a child, you barely remember you ever were.

Sit three painted dolls.

With pink cloth boots and tartan skirts,
And golden braids and silk rose chokers.
With plastic flowers above their left ears,
And shinning anklets with star shaped charms.

And painted smiles.

But these tins of cherry lip balm, and torn up masking tape
Is all they've ever seen.
The world from one angle,
Slumped against a glass jar of drawing pins.

And they think the world is made, of lemongrass and sticky notes,
And a penny from last decade is the height of wealth and class.
A world of scissor blades and felt-tip pens,
Frozen shadows, distant noises

And they hold hands.

And smile.

Because the sky's the colour of wilting violets,
And the sunset lasts a second...

Secondary Winner 2nd Place

Softer By Zaara Dancu

You said you didn't know the truth but
Truly you were a skilled painter,
With hands like gold,
And a mind like Cicero,
With something in between your lips which is scalded
On your trachea forever.

I don't know whether to beat up the brokenness that
You are anymore. Are you stained glass and blood?
Are we just the young bodies we crawled into
When we couldn't take it anymore? I don't have answers,
And neither do you, I think that's what's eating you up.
That youth which you welcomed, and so you became childish.

It's hard to hate a face like yours when
Sweetness is innocent and punching it hurts.
I'm a professional, I tell myself,
While I'm deceived by you.
I'm an actor, I say to the mirror,
As you dance and sing on a stage full of snow white roses.

Whether to treat a frayed feather like a child or
A man isn't a question, it's a choice, and how you will
Look at it for good. Eat it up,
the blood looks good on your lips,
Even if it is bright pink and not your shade,
Your pale skin will blend in someday.

We want to be loved, we say. I want to be loved by you and
Everyone on earth who will hear nonsense and think it
Wisdom. That's what the truth is, I imagine. That's what youth is,
You say. I don't know the truth, I say.
Look at the paintings we've made.

Secondary Highly Commended

Friends are Overrated By Stella Phipps

Friends are overrated
Sure, they're nice to have around -
But why spend hours making plans,
Just for that “how are you?” sound?

They'll text you when they're lonely,
And forget you when they're out.
Then they'll bore you with a phone call
On what their movie's all about.

I like to take naps in the garden,
And make towers out of cheese -
And I'd say I'm truly happy
As there's no one else to please!

Now I bring myself on dinner dates,
(Two nights a week in town)
And they all go quite fantastically
Because I never let me down!

Secondary Highly Commended

The Woman in the Window By Kitty

The bedroom curtains sway
And the branches dance below.
but the woman in the window,
Has been there to see me grow.

From the house across the driveway,
She sips her tea and smiles,
And although we've never spoken
We've been friends for a long while.

She helps me pick out outfits
And I look at all her shoes.
She watches quite intently
As I act out all my news

I run home after school
And every day I see,
The woman in the window,
Sipping on her tea

One day the woman was not there,
I frowned and raised my head.
There were dust sheets on the sofas
And her shoes were on the bed.

The woman's ghost now sits in the window,
And sips her cup of tea.
Our friendship means a lot to her
As it always will to me.

Collection HQ Prize Winner

Burial by Bex Hainsworth

In the last days, your pink toes curled under
themselves, twisted feet giving you
an old man's amble and aching bones.
You fell asleep each afternoon in the cave
of my dressing gown pocket. We could see
that you were life-weary: it was expected,
I knew before I found you,

a sunny crescent of fur frozen in sleep,
your fingerprint-sized heart finally stilled.
I cradled your quiet body between my palms,
thumbs stroking your woolly stomach,
my breath making your long whiskers tremble.
I wondered at your soft death.

Your cage became a simple wake
whilst we prepared the chosen plant pot.
Out on a terrace full of grey wind,
trowel in hand, he dug the hole deep
and then returned to the kitchen to slice
pale green triangles of cucumber: a final feast.

I wrapped you in a tissue shroud spun from
your nest, and then we placed you in the ground.
The soil shivered with silver woodlice
and mossy caterpillars as we buried you.
Afterwards, we piled pebbles into a cairn,
dedicating this: the gift of your small bones.

Larkin Prize

Promises By Rue Collinge

That year
was the year I taught you
how to make a turban out of towels,
the way I learned when I was twelve.
I hung my head upside down
and let you drape the back of it,
gather each end and twist
to trap the wet rat tails, then
tuck them under.

That year
I also taught you
how to apply mascara,
because that was something I would not give up
for convenience
and how to help me wriggle
into my knickers
and pull up tights.

I sat like a child whilst you socked my feet
tied my shoes
dried my hair
put my clothes on
held the glass of water up with its straw
filled the kettle
cooked the food
cut my food up
cleaned the house
paid the bills
alongside this wife who could not care
for herself
who was
with the world
with you
with everything -

That year,
through sickness, not in health,
you loved me.

Adult Gold Prize

Beatitude By Marianne MacRae

My dog and I are attending church.
He insisted I should wear a bonnet.
When we arrived I was mortified
to find the rest of the worshippers hatless.
Several people have approached me
to say, “what a charming bonnet”, but
I know irony when it smiles across the holy water.

The organ is doing its heavy-breathing routine:
softly, softly welcoming the congregation, as though
the church is a giant elevator with muzak piping in
as we rise up through the multi-storey office block of divinity.

There is the usual scent of resin humming
somewhere between fruit and frankincense - classic church.
The pews look like chocolate but do not taste like it.
My dog said we mustn't eat before church.
He said the spirit of the higher power cannot enter a full stomach,
but if we can only be patient we will be filled
to bursting when the spirit arrives.

My dog is very devout.
He has his head bowed in prayer, no doubt
asking for more Toothy Yum Bones, but he can think again.
If anything, I'm too charitable about dental hygiene.

Suddenly the organ kicks it up a gear,
nought to five harmonies in three seconds.
The priest appears, done up like an Easter egg.
The altar servers are doing back flips.
My dog is up on his hind legs, weeping and giving thanks
and I'm so hungry I start crying too.
The statues have t-shirt guns firing out funky V-necks
emblazoned with the spirit's slogan: “Snap! Crackle! God!”
The priest enters his plastic sphere and goes zorbing
up and down the gangways buoyed by the congregation's love.

My dog and I are hugging. He lifts me up
and we fly in loops around the church, laughing and waving.
He looks me in the eye and says, “that really is a charming bonnet”,
and the truth and the light pour out of him and into me
and I am sanctified.
I am sanctified.

Adult Silver Prize

Bernard Cabannes By Sharon Black

He taps the birches in the spring -
a glass each day cleans out the gut.
Asks the trees' permission first:

question them, they'll answer.
As a child he had asthma. His parents
bought this place when he was two -
no cleaner air. Spent
their summers fixing it up.
He was the only one who stayed,

became a forester, planted a nursery
back there, twenty-thousand trees:
red oaks, maples, cherries.

Though he grew up in Marseilles,
his heart is here. When that cedar
fell in last year's storm, he lost a friend.

The trunk snapped half-way down.
He had to axe the rest.
But he can't get out the roots.

Adult Highly commended

Today's Statistics By Chris Sewart

The publishing of today's statistics
don't take account of your head missing from the pillow,
the flap of deckchair once filled by your tranquil body,
a cobweb unchecked in the bathroom.

I talk soft words over a nurse's iPhone
(kindly tilted on a bedside chair)
The weather is glorious.
Of no interest to you
in your microclimate of pumps and tubes and mask.
Delivering a heady mix to ensure
your chest rises and falls,
falls and rises.

Around you I glimpse professionals
masked and gowned, conferring, testing
like nuclear scientists in a downbeat
50s B-movie.

Later I shuffle the TV through endless briefings
full of slides and grief and spin:

                      Today's statistics show a growth in...
                      Today's statistics show a spike...
                      Today's statistics show...

The publishing of today's statistics
don't acknowledge you.
Don't show my face, devoid of your kiss.

Adult Highly commended

Scott Hall Pool By Sonia Hunjan

At first we were boats
navigating islands
made from clumped-up plasters,
nappies and abandoned armbands.

I twisted into a starfish
with arms and legs spread
like grasping fingers
trying to hold the water's surface.

While you became a pebble,
seabed furniture, a resting shell.
Sunk as stone yet fluorescent
as a traffic cone in your Adidas costume.

I sighed my air away to join you,
to swear best friends forever underwater.
Our promise held together ten years longer
than those words that burst above us.