Finalists 2015


Annemarie Mullan

Piercing night, her Eveready

raises flurries of sudden sheep,

small grassy tuffets into rush,

eerie Chamaecyparis silhouettes,

cow-parsley sputniks; torch-rays

glancing outlines on and off

each raggedy hawthorn bush

the lane-side ditch now sunk

in rugged battle trench

and then, a sinister surprise –

as she’s tilting pebbles,

elongating them in ovals

to prickly thicket height –

two amber glints off fierce

nocturnal sky-wide eyes.

Being with a beam,

the lanes lie down or levitate

to her slight electric touch.

Shriek-shaped features

from its hot vermilion glow –

held to the hollow of her chin –

send her younger brother

stumbling backwards into flight,

‘wisp in the hedgerow

still – flickering – after him.

Later, she’ll turn pages

in a sphere of dimming light,

curled snug in an eiderdome,

her small-backed underworld,

rapt in a linen cloud of white.


Eamon Cunningham

The handyman came early morning with his satchel of well-worn tools,

swung a heavy sledge to dislodge ‘big brutes’ socketed in lime mortar.

He resized an opening, offered a large casement to the space, plumbed

all by eye, before an after school clan invaded to trample layers of dust.


Lit like a stage the room looked aged, in places was bare to the hemp weave,

while the long sofa’s shrouded curves made it feel that a body lurked under.

Just as the light died, he let us help with the redding up, while he inspected,

strolled about in an end ceremony of little nods, and under the breath grunts.


We came down to a bright airiness, enthralled by the clear aspect gifting

a sunlit presence the run of the garden, out to tall church-yard trees drooped

over the wall, young foliage fluttering, and next door’s sleekit tom as it skittered

in the flower beds, sensed it was seen, from where we had fingered our initials.


Landscapes excited, shifting brilliances, black birds riding the swaying aerial,

laundry straining to fly, rain dancing on the corrugated roof, or blue skies high.

Now when kitchen light flooded the yard we played out late, its glow drawing

in big furry moths to buffet the invisible; keeping things of the darkness out.

Found Light

Elaine Gaston

Sometimes it is the sudden shaft that glimmers

over the wet slates of the red-brick houses

while I cycle to work in the break

between showers in early September,

an ancient message through the clouds,

just as the schools go back.


Sometimes it stops me in my tracks

as I struggle with the shopping,

the forest-fire sun behind the mountain,

or how the rainstorm over the city fractures

the late afternoon into a prism

when the evenings draw in.


But mostly it is just the ordinary

wedge of a weekday morning through curtains,

someone’s hair at the dinner table, its glint

as they lean in to talk about their day,

or the sodium of a street lamp through venetians,

the television as it flickers on silent.

Light: The Old Farm

Anne McMaster

These are the days when the light moves slowly on.

When summer, wrapped up gently as any precious gift,

Ebbs slowly – and in leaving us seems sweeter than before.

I search for beauty in the fields around the farm

And find berry-clustered hedges, limned in leaf of gold,

Glowing brightly, still-life like, rich with colour,

Holding the weight – if not the heat – of the lowering sun.

For autumn light brings with it a fading memory of warmth

And falls in layers of stillness now – a slow retreat –

Pressing more lightly in against the shortening day.

These days I carry close to me – as something treasured –

My memories of this farm on a clear summer’s day.

Dawn brought with it, then, rich promises of toil.

Unwrapped in soft blue mornings, filigreed with mist,

Thick swathes of grass, falling freshly-mown behind my father’s blades,

Dried, crisp and fragrant, under a golden sun.

We carried light within us – in childish voices and in laughter –

From fields to kitchen, then racing back outdoors:

Each voice, a note of busy happiness we did not know we sang.

Later, in the room we shared, folded and tucked in tight,

Summer light pooling in golden shadows at the foot of each small bed,

Mist softening, again, the edges of the glorious day,

Roads, hedges, cattle, cats still warm with the memory of sun,

And a waterfall of birdsong echoing through the falling dusk.

The fading light of autumn, now, is a different, sombre thing.

The yard is stilled: old houses empty, tractors gone.

The choir of birds is silenced too: some have already flown.

Those remaining have withdrawn from the immediacy of the day.

Leaves are weighted now and still: caught on the cusp of colour, waiting to fall.

Only shadows fill the quiet, lonely byres.

The pale light of winter will be a barren gift – something to yearn for and yet lose too soon.

Such meagre light will prove a mere echo of the generous summer sun

And will not fill the faltering heart or thaw the frozen soil.

The frosted light draws out, instead, the scents and sounds of the fading year:

The sweetened smoke of peat fires fragrance the still, cool air,

And in the icy, lowering darkness a fox’s bark echoes harshly across the empty, frozen fields

While glittering stars burn cold

And the old farm lies quiet and still.

The Petrographer

Andrew Soye

He still has a few acres in County Tyrone,

barely enough for a small flock of sheep,

a clutch of hens and the cockerel that rises

above them, garnet comb and pyroxene

wings flashing in sunlight. But he makes

his living shining light through stone.


Today he’s off early. Spring is unwinding

nature’s clock, turning his thoughts to nights

spent in the lambing shed watching new life

labour through darkness towards his torch

while outside on the hillside foxes lope

between boulders, scenting the afterbirth.


Belfast behind him, driving south through

flurries of snow, the waters of The Lough

are black as tourmaline, the fields’ mosaic

pale-green olivine, cleaved and furrowed

brown amphibole. He polishes the glass,

lets their colours shine through.

Total Internal Reflection

Jonathan Hicks

Morning is here, in bed, and resting with me.

I’ve been hemispherically absorbed, apparently.

10:29am. The absolute and insignificant light,

not the sun, is becoming an optical phenomena.

The electric light is still burning, pen in hand,

thoughts in the head. Observe the illumination

of little things that make up the greater things,

that make up the universal spectrum of things,

the absolute and insignificant, the absolute in

the insignificant. I will feel my limbs and hang

my X-rays back on the wall. There’s foodstuffs

in the cupboard, fruit in the bowl, milk, Muller

Lite yoghurt and one carrot in the refrigerator.

Microwave works, my folks, friends – alive, me

breathing without wheezing, without blowing

out their warm candela. Nails: unbitten. Eyes –

20/20ish. Books on the shelves, Book of Optics

on the floor, old Valentine cards still blu-tacked

to my wood-chipped wall: these ions of friends,

the frequency of love, and I’ll lie on to 11:30am.

My morning shower is being thermally imaged

and I know my only school run today is noon.

The god of relaxation is asleep under the duvet.

I close my eyes and think of old typewriters, 50’s

sci-fi movies, bright white teeth, people singing

in cars, and children kicking footballs in parks.

My beloved (a Physician) has left me a love note:


n1 sin 01 = n2 sin 02


Copper pipes in the roof space clank about.

I hear Kelvin, my flatmate, on the toilet, ponder

on the deep refraction of Rainbow, his one love,

lying next door in radiant energy, igniting the fire

in his eyes. Have I really been hemispherically

absorbed? I check the time:10:55am. Wonder what

to do the next half hour. See things in a new light.

True Light

Sarah Cavanagh

I don’t think of you in technicolour

on the big screen, running through fields

of yellow birds-foot all tinged gold;

or astride your warhorse, champing

and sweating, ready for battle.

When I look up on clear Winter nights

I’ve no longing to search for you among

the flecks of light in the darkening sky.

You are not light years away.

You’re my shadow stretching behind

me on plump pillows of white hydrangeas,

still fresh with rain; their scent

drifting through gaps in the syllables

of words we have no need to speak.