Co. Antrim

Eamon Cunningham, Dunmurry

A second time regional winner of the Funeral Services Northern Ireland’s National Poetry Competition, judges liked that Eamon’s poem started strongly, and they felt like they could see it immediately. It had a good sound pattern with words like “bucket” and “gushing”, and a nod to the late Seamus Heaney was recognised at the end.

After Daybreak

On early mornings we were woken

by sounds of water falling into a bucket,

gushing from the mouth of a lion’s head.

A pump with garland mane and fluted finial

stood solid like some past effigy of Empire,

served those dependants of the street.


Beneath our window a regular footfall;

the coughs and clicks of men walking

to assembly points on street corners.

We knew each step, lift, set and rhythm,

pace and face became a code,

logged steadfast in our being.


Some mustered on steps as if doing time,

shuttled from bar to starting post,

squandered days like lookouts guarding.

At times when I lie awake I catch the spill,

its bright flush tumbles in unhurried,

opens a gleam into the imagined.