Michael Conaghan, West Belfast

The judges thought that this poem had a sense of journey and movement. The poetic voice was strong and personal. It really takes the reader into the war and has a real sense of place. They particularly loved the the use of language and the word “dandled”.

Palm Sunday

Differently dreaming, from an age ago
I knew it was that terrible war,
And you were there, mournful
In your grey officer’s uniform
And I was in a truckle bed
Broken beyond all repair.
You recited verse from memory
Something I could never do
Then told me about a time before
When you were courting;
Some party in a country house
For Halloween, breaking the Sunday code
And damn the whole thing anyway.

She took your hand and dandled
A finger along the curve
Of your palm. Saying that
Of all the young men whose
Palms she had read that day,
Yours was the first whose lifeline
Had not been broken, or erased.
Would you like to take the horses out
Just before dawn, and ride
The four fields down towards the lough?
See the light pleasure the water
With rippling roses as your
smoky breath caught fire?
‘I give that memory to you’
He said, as the dream departed
‘A sunlit resurrection of the heart’