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What Came First

September 24, 2010

By Penny Boxall

What Came First

It was the first fine day.
Not even hot – just that the sky
had broken to show itself, modestly,
startlingly blue. We watched through
the high classroom windows, the shuddering
of cloud and sky. After break, we filed
down the lane to the burn behind the village.
It was overgrown, dank with weed,
and the trunks were mossy, moist
to the touch. Someone called us –
held a bird’s nest, complete with egg,
an almost-dome inside an O.
“Look, the bird has left the edge
so neat, as if it sliced it, somehow.”
The teacher balanced it
and drew us back to school –
where we found the egg gone.
Emptied, the twigs and hair
were no more than a palm,

an open grasp like the one
which took mine one afternoon
and led me to the staffroom
when I cried for the end.
She handed me a strawberry tart – said,
“He’s in heaven now,” not adding,
as I thought she would,
“if there is a heaven.” I studied
the crown of berries,
their rich sauce, wondering
if I should eat it if I could not say for sure.


© Penny Boxall 2010


Penny Boxall is the winner of the Frederik van Eeden Poetry Competition.


Penny Boxall was born in Surrey and grew up in rural Scotland and Yorkshire. She attended the University of East Anglia between 2005-2009, studying English Literature with Creative Writing at undergraduate level, and graduated with distinction from the UEA Creative Writing: Poetry MA.


She is currently at The Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere as the literature intern, working in the museum and as the Literature Assistant. Her poetry has appeared in The Rialto, and she has been shortlisted twice for an Eric Gregory Award.