Open Competition 2021 First Prize


It’s too easy to let lonely win the fight.
The kids are with their dad alternate weekends.
It kicks like a horse but don’t you get to hike?
Look at you, wind-tousled in your turquoise
gore-tex cagoule and gaiters. Say it, hiker,
There’s always something lying around
to lift us. The box of eggs slipped
from your hand. Four broke, but two didn’t
and the meringue was good. Ripe strawberries
at Aldi, double cream on special. Raise your spoon
you’re a hiker, you’ll burn it off uphill.
Think of all those Fridays you’re footloose
and can drive to the Lake District after work,
handbrake on in time for last orders.
Think of that guy in the bar who said
seven hours on the road, you must be hard-core or mental
and offered you a crisp, not a drink,
meaning he didn’t fancy you,
so you were free to just act normal. Think of how,
when it turned out he did fancy you,
near the summit of Lonscale Fell, it was a cinch
to remember that drink and hike harder.
Think of the view you won
when you were champion of the unspoiled wet world.
Wasn’t the walk back down easy?
each footfall a countdown to sea level,
where the tide toys with its shells and worn glass
and gratitude waits to lead you by the hand,
points out all the blues and greens,
the crystals of dry salt. The constant tide
turning. Keeping its hold on the light.

Vanessa Lampert