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2018 highly commended entrants

In 2018 three entries have been highly commended by our judges: 'Lawn' by Shona Hawkes, 'Kunanyi' by Anne Kellas and 'Hearing the world' by Louise Wakeling. 


by Shona Hawkes 

perhaps this suburban lawn
this strip of needy grass, 
is a last, lost cry for field and fen
buried deep in our skin
and carried across the sea 

maybe this is the little that could be saved
as our ancestors fled their lands and all those wars
which are mostly not called war

picking through the weeds,
this first playground is also where 
I learned to tell the difference 
between legitimate and illegitimate immigrants 
and small hands would strip the necks of native millet

here I made a sword from a stick
and we practiced running away from each other

with hose and tap we dreamed water
and paid on credit
here I studied how to put a rake through a snake
and how to trap a cricket

our mascot, the letterbox, spilled words 

cutting grass, men taught us that this land is labour
and refuses to be what we want it to be 
we poured kerosene down the holes of bull-ants 
cats delivered the bodies of birds

the street was a long line carved by fences
we locked dogs in our yards 
so they could yell at strangers

I would lie and look up, naming the stars
and learned to see what I wanted in the shifting clouds.


Kunanyi / Mt Wellington

by Anne Kellas
After the storms, before the cable car, 2018

glimpsed in a watercolour sky
 – white
turns into winter mist.

Soft rain
on the grey mountainside
in a lessening of less.

Bare stalks of trees near the summit
lean at an angle in the gale.
Time’s a soft-tissue injury
a rift

threads broken
in the blanket-weave of leaves.
A vague purple shade of green
seeps into the dark.

I cannot speak rainforest or cloud
nor walk mountain paths.
Language slips from me.
There is no sound here. 


Hearing the world 

by Louise Wakeling

mid-mountain, you feel the weather coming in, 
palpable, drifts of fog and nimbostratus
infiltrating from the Southern Highlands.  
pass the village sign and you know you’re home, 
behind you now the four-car prang, 
blue flashing lights, the glitter and crunch 
of debris on the road, the rubber-necking 
at what has kept you idling for an hour.  
tonight, you’re unscathed, though clouds
are gravid with tomorrow’s snow 

all the forecasts agree an extreme weather 
event is on the cards, though the Bureau
calls it a ‘cold front’, not ‘Antarctic vortex’.   
pity – you like the drama and magnitude 
of it, global weirding with a vengeance.  

still, it takes you by surprise next morning, 
like in Oxford all those years ago, 
your first sight of snow, fat postcard-robins 
on silvery branches, hyperreal, the whole world
transformed, and you, in that moment. 

step into the garden on a slide of ice, 
dog-bowl topped with a furry pane of glass, 
a tarpaulin of snow stretched tight
on the crinkle-cut roof of the old garage. 
the dog leaves dark lacunae in her wake,
spoor disappearing into white-out.

you wonder if the Falls below 
are laced with ice, a Hokusai wave 
about to break and suddenly, driving 
becomes a dangerous idea, like strapping
explosives to your chest and walking
onto a crowded street. why risk it
for your workaday routine, coming down 
from the mountain to the flat plains 
of what you do for a living? 

live traffic reports whistle you off the 
journey, and you make the call.  
you’ll never leave off feeling 
guilty for the windfall of a day at home. 

the cat, incarcerated indoors, peers 
behind a Roman blind at ghost-white trees, 
an unfamiliar stretch of lawn.  the flight 
of birds is stilled, their startled childlike cry, 
the Buddha fountain silent among 
the ivy.  short curls crusted with snow
mean renunciation, but half-closed eyes 
look inward and outward, long earlobes 
hear what’s needed in the world