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Nominated poems in the What’s your Place? competition

Genomineerde gedichten in de Wat is jouw plek? wedstrijd

March 2, 2014

By Holland Park Press

Departures – GennaRose Nethercott – winning poem

In our hometown
no one spoke of it.

Not while pulling carrots
from their umber beds
to stack and sell at market.
Nor as we shoveled grit
from shop basements
after the flood. Sometimes

teenagers in smoke filled cars
would cough careless
dreams of getting out
of this nowhere town
as they drove in circles

between the empty lot
and the rotary. I remember
us back then, careening
around corners, chewing
on the ends of slim jims
with the radio rattling
the dashboard. But even

then it was rarely mentioned.
No pomp and circumstance,
no absence directly addressed.
You were there until

you weren’t. Every so often
a photograph would surface
of some girl we had known
in high school, playing banjo
on a doorstep in Arizona,

dust in her hair. We would nod,
note how it’s true, no one’s seen
her for a good two or three
years now, and we would study
the photo for a while,
like staring through a ghost.

When it was our turn,
we slipped out quietly.

Some left for the redwoods
and never came back. Others
of us floated in and out,
visits growing less frequent
until we simply faded,
like lace curtains washed pale
by the sun. Those who stayed

kept on buying Black & Milds
from the Indian grocer, carried
on tilling their father’s land,

and talking of the crop,
the accident on Canal Street,
of voting day—anything
but the ones who left.

© GennaRose Nethercott

Flames of no Masks  – John Kolyav – runner-up

We watched the old man on the other bank
Ritualistically washing Pema Khendup’s body
While the pyre was getting ready.

Students were busy piling up dry logs
In the form of a pyramid
Cut off its peak, as to serve the purpose.

The crematorium was at the narrow bank
Of a clear brook between two cliffs
In Khoma, a remote village in North-East Bhutan.

Seven teachers, principal,
And I, the only expatriate
Were resting on small rocks by the brook.

Four monks and their head priest at the pyre
Were incessantly chanting magic hymns.

I occasionally dipped my bare feet
In the icy brook that accepts the souls
From every crematorium in its bank
All along its way down to India.

The local wine our cooks served frequently
Warmed us against the chilling December.

Sometimes we shared cruel jokes
And shouted like empty pots
While our shadows shivered on the ripples.

The half-naked old man completed his task
And placed the body in a jute sac,
Lifted up, and carried on his back.
He slowly came along the narrow bridge,
The isthmus of life and death.

His dreams, mixed with drops of water and tears
Were falling on the bridge
While the wooden planks groaned.

It was last night, vomiting blood,
Pema Khendup, his only son, expired.
Rumor was that it was by black magic
Of some jealousy neighbors!

He was a bright middle secondary student
In my biology classes, the only thing I was sure,
But we were there to watch him burning down!

The monks urged to hurry up and finish
Before the terrible nightfall
At the haunted place.
The old man carefully placed the body
In a squatting position on the pyre
And kept the logs slantingly, covering it.

As the pyre was lighted up
We all stood up showing grave face.

A few boulders fell down from the hills around.

The dancing flames kissing Pema Khendup’s face
Had no masks but I wonder,
Even now, why most of us had!

© John Kolyav

Summer on Suomenlinna – Deborah Mason

It’s the picnic season so
the cliffs are dotted with people.
Sunbathers lie neatly on ledges,
their naked skin browning
or burning as they doze.
Splodges of colour
highlight the picnickers
sprawling untidily on rocks
savouring strawberries
popping peas into mouths
drinking and laughing
through the afternoon heat.

Splashed across the cliff top
in poster paint yellow
a wavy ribbon of flowers
underlines the hot blue sky.
Below, in the lapping, sparkling sea,
a dropped champagne glass
bobs up and down in the waves
catching the sunlight over and over.
Dipping and tipping
into the bubbles and froth
it comes up again and again
for more and more.

© Deborah Mason

Headland – Helen Victoria Anderson

Year on slow year, this mountain sprouts less blue,
plucked bare by scrabbling adolescent hands
as cowslips finish off the final few
harebells clutching at receding grasslands.
Campfire-blackened hollows provide respite
from seaweed-sodden, foggy teenage plans
and parents, out of mind – so, out of sight –
behind the graveyard’s clock-less, churchless tower,
settle down on sofas, eyes open tight,
nodding like parched spikes of a picked wild flower.

They wait

for pressure of virgin, papyrus pages
to mark the bell-less tolling of the hour;
battened down against their mid-life rages
against fading hues of just-past ages.

© Helen Victoria Anderson

Metal Giraffes on the Clyde – Rosemary Gemmell

Giant metal giraffes
rust with abandonment
in ghostly shipyards,
heads no longer nodding
to the sounds of industry
on the River Clyde.

Welders and coppersmiths
morph into modern techs,
as the computer chip
salvages a dying breed
once apprenticed
to a noble tradition.

Soon, the ominous silence
reverberates once more
with the sound of voices –
incomers to riverside homes,
built in the shadow
of graveyard giraffes.

© Rosemary Gemmell

No Magnetic South – Sylvia Telfer

Rowan flicked 56, shooing witches. Gooseberries
plonked on bricks shard. Such a spiky and hard
touch in memories. In the village, cheese wire-cut,
meat hacked, leek soil-dark while our avenue sighed
in skies bleak with Meg Cowan as May Queen.
Some unholy whiff in her calico dolls,
how she poled on drying green.
A blueprint poised her pin-eyed at 32.
Bailey at 14 was on it too, an electric blue ball
eternally bouncing from a GPO van.
Uneasy echo in the war memorial.
Dad’s uncle in sleep plumes;
a young McGrath dead before my birth
and an iron, at-the-ready soldier stared south
to a magnetic jut of city.
Prim mouth Miss Drake perched, a stuffed owl,
in cinema cubicle, bubble of a snake goddess
in ticket coil. In plush balcony throne a là a
butcher showing ‘coming drama’ amid gristle
and bone, wacky Wilma padded past with
ice-cone tray, breasts ballooning on pop ad
to matinee boys’ yells.
Hollywood spells of cowpokes, mobsters,
cartoons, pointed to far-off worlds and so
I thought there was a going on beyond
the now dull semis, phobic dogs, wives
with gerbil white knees,
beyond their sons in yellow oilskins.
Now on Ginger’s Hill twigs tossed into stream
bob to nowhere. The mill’s an Indian eatery,
marsh dry where we slithered frogspawn
through fingers. Fatal Effie, the local vamp,
who bleached her fringe the tinge of
mashed banana, is long gone.
Meat’s in Iceland, cheese and squeaky-clean
leek cellophaned in Tesco, and 56 deserted,
unflicked, and so the witches gather.
Whiff of soil inside.
Mum’s everyday coat’s stiff on the cellar knob,
many-pocketed, a coat of caves. I lift it, sniff her.
Father tinkers in the shed, merge of flesh and iron.
Mother’s upstairs fluttering sheets,
on the verge of infinity, deathless.                
It’s the house I’ve remained in.
Something in it was set the way a doll’s house is.

© Sylvia Telfer

West Oakland Station – Alia Salim

On a mute, white morning, something I can’t place
Still and suspended, airborne but too impossibly angular
To be anything that flies.

My nose to the glass, closer, we are rumbling toward the port
The warehouses fall away to ruts and tracks, reveal that
The UFO is the head of a crane.

The long steel neck, the rest, lost behind a cloud curtain
Rain rippling in the folds, an advancing front coming for us
Like age and winter.

Only a crane, then, through the small tear in the sky
But I am reassured, believe as we slip under the water
That it will cover our retreat.

© Alia Salim

Fenland – Jonathan Totman

Smell of smoke in the fens where he walks at night
between the river and the railway line. 

Barges sleep beneath a line of lamplit willows.
Beyond, the town gives way to marsh and reed.

His breath catches on the cold like wool on
barbed wire. From under his hood,

he takes in the nakedness of water, smooth
as the top of the Marmite in a newly opened jar.

He is drawn here. As if the folds of the earth
shook him out and tumbled him down

to where he might walk and run and know that
falling’s not so bad. Something inside him flattens,

flies distances on the rattle of trains and the ripple of swans,
floats in the hush of the night.

©  Jonathan Totman

The Caravan at Holme – Lois Williams – runner-up

It stood on bricks, the axle rotted out,
and faced the wind as any other sheep
grazing the headland’s clover. A junk heap
of dents and rivets, flaking paint—no doubt
lead-based—and porthole windows years without
cleaning: it was the place we went to sleep
off hangovers and break-ups, teenage deep
stuff. Maybe its tin-can curves and pullout
bed beguiled us. Maybe to go about
our lamentations privately, to keep
the grown-up mortared mortgaged life asleep
a little while longer and to shout
the demons off our backs was why the lock
was broken. We all went. It was our rock.

© Lois Williams

Phuket, Thailand – Lucia Lam

Inside a cracked toy van
We shelter, with our backpacks,
Behind glass thinner than paper.

Conquering onto the roads
Past midnight
At the speed of light,
No airbags or seatbelts. Shifting
Lanes every second, as if our car is the
Exclusive king.

Huge trucks fly by, millimeters from my left arm;
Horrendous sounds of scratches.

Hastening along the highway lane painted with
A big white arrow pointing towards us
Like a sharp sword.
Prepared to be shattered into pieces any moment.
Nobody would notice where we’ve vanished.

The road remains silent and bare.
Brusquely we bump into the curb.
The controller lights his cigar
And slowly closes his eyes,
Throwing away the ten lives under his hands.

Hours and hours later, just before
Our hearts pumped out, the light starts
To slowly shy in, from Phuket,

Its soft, smooth, and shiny sand
Gives our cold and trembling feet
A warm welcome kiss.
Delicately whispering water caresses the sand, drifting
Into blurry ripples; undefined moving circles,
Tangling with bright rays.

The soft, pastel blue sky;
A multi-faceted screen,
Extends well beyond the
Clouds, guiding into heaven;

Colours and brightness
Ever changing.

Our fragile feet frolic
On the shifting sands
Along the meandering shore.

© Lucia Lam

The Isle of Beauty – Virginia Astley

All you can see is mud and sand stretching
to distant rippled light where the channel meets
the estuary, and further still, the sea.
You stand on an island you have made home,
re-named The Isle of Beauty: only you,
and your dog – who has never learnt to swim –
and of course there are the ruins too,
all around you, half-sunk, the modern ruins,
between the isle and the wide flat marshes
of the peninsula, slumped in grey mud,
monitoring posts, communication networks,
and all those nameless things covered in slime
sliding ever deeper each passing year.
You walk the shoreline, gathering samphire;
you collect the rain to wash and to drink;
under the monochrome of dusk you read
poems to your dog, who watches you,
who can’t take her eyes off you, until one day –
the wildest day – she vanishes and you find
she has swum for the opposite shore,
and you wander to the disused fort where
within rat-scuffed walls a barn owl floats
unfurling, face down in blackened water.

© Virginia Astley

Telefooncel - Stan Mooij - winnaar

ik had geen telefoon, 
in de Milletstraat
belde ik in een cel
waar buiten in een hoek
het blad in cirkels vertelde

de granieten vloer
de gescheurde boeken
de bakelieten hoorn
waarop het condens lag
van wie mij voor was

mijn stap naar binnen
naar de wereld van buiten
achter de ruiten
de wachtende mensen
de ander die een ander had

waar het in de winter vroor
en het te heet was
in de zomer
in het voorjaar het herfstblad
naar binnen woei

als mijn mobiel
in mijn zak glijdt
weeg ik nog eenmaal
de zuchtende deur
die mijn leven bepaalde

© Stan Mooij

Wandeling in google streetview 4 - Tom Driesen

Hier werden wij niet geboren
wij werden gelegd. Wij kregen
als zandbakschepje een truweel.
Wij studeerden voor veel niet
om in verband te blijven
zoals geen Anderlecht defensie
dat nog zou doen.

Vaders lieten hier als bladwit
gronden braak. Hier zouden we
het vervolg aan slaapverhalen 
dromen. Uit klei was genoeg
vertrouwen te putten
om stenen rood te bakken.

Over huizen voerden van vleugels
veren dakpansgewijs de nattigheid
van oude dagen. We zagen nooit
een man weerkeren van het veld
achter de kerk. Dus was krentenpap
de beste plaats om je vinger in te steken.

© Tom Driesen

Achter de dijk - Rinske Kegel

Achter de dijk ligt een huis van lang geleden
onder het oppervlak van het grindgat
waar we in de winter schaatsten op het zwarte ijs.
Onze vader zei dat de kolencentrale aan het kanaal
wolken produceerde.

Voor de dijk is er de melkboer met glazen flessen
en het rolletje snoep aan het einde van de week,
het naar de kerk gaan en het proberen te geloven in god.

Achter de dijk ligt de wereld, er schijnen daar steden te zijn
waar 's nachts doorgeleefd wordt en ooit zullen onze
kinderen geboren worden in een flatgebouw.

Voor de dijk is er het dorp met ons warme huis,
waar de tijd die vloeibaar is als de rivier,
waar we herinneringen maken op
de schommel die heen en weer gaat.

Achter de dijk stijgt het water.

© Rinske Kegel

Foto van mijn oude straat - Joris Denoo

Oude vrieskou lijkt onder een straatlamp
minder erg. Wellicht droeg de fotograaf
warme wanten, die hij even uitdeed
tijdens die ene tel eeuwigheid.

Het is een oude straat waar ik het over heb.
Een straat zonder einde die doodloopt
zonder reden. Een fuik, een finishfoto.
Ik zag er eens twee sinterklazen.

Voor een mens op de maan had gewandeld.
Ik hoorde er gerinkel in boodschappentassen
voor ik zelf mijn eigen zatheid zocht.
Paard en kar brachten er gezondheid ten huize.

Eén foto kan onmogelijk volstaan.
Want er gebeurde niets. En van alles.
Maar zoals die straat de laatste keer
werd opgebroken A.D. achtenzestig,

zo zoek ik heden tevergeefs
naar mijn paar warme wanten
en één seconde overvloedig licht
voor de duur van dit gedicht.

© Joris Denoo

Ansicht uit Wyobraźnia - Rob Boudestein

vanaf de steenberg daalt de straat
weerszij staat in een handvol tinten grauw
een strakke rij gering bemeten huizen
er speelt geen kind
we zien geen luiers aan een lijn

links zitten in dit uitgediend decor
drie kompels – door de dood vergeten –
als stille wachters naast hun deur
de ogen op de doorsteek gefixeerd
waar nu – in kleur – het klikklakmeisje
zomaar het zonlicht binnenzwiert

exact éénduizendste seconde blijft ze staan
wanneer een vlindervleugelslag juist even
haar jurkje speels beroert

dan loopt ze door

en klinkt vanachter deze kaart
– stel ik me voor –
een vrouwenstem die niet valt te negeren
de mannen zullen traag naar binnen gaan
met stoel en al
meer valt die dag niet te beleven

© Rob Boudestein

uit in Utrecht - Jaap Lemereis - runner-up

hoek Domplein, hoog aan de rand arrogant die wijzers
op acht over zes, het uur waarop je zei dat je niet meer
 nooit echt en het woei zo dat ik na een jaar daar

nog steeds tegenin zwoeg over Vismarkt en Wed
en uit alle macht denk aan de lucht en aan vogels 
aan alles anders dan die toren, van bovenaf zou je zeggen

kijk daar loopt hij weer, maar ik loop niet, ik snij
iemand in stukjes, ik been uit, acht over zes en het mes
bloedt en ik bloed, want warmte houdt zich niet

aan grenzen, in het hart van het land loop ik met
een hart van beschuit door de regen en wacht op
de acht waar het eind van de straat is, op die hoek

van dat plein waar alles nog steeds draait om die toren
terwijl in mijn maag een sidderaal opduikt uit diepzuur
water omdat het ook elders hier altijd zo laat is

© Jaap Lemereis