Headington Poetry
Competition 2005:
Winners (Adult)


Eighteen adults entered the Headington Poetry Competition 2005.
The poems were judged by the poet Bernard O’Donoghue,
who is Fellow in English at Wadham College, Oxford. Here are the winners:


Thank you for shopping at your local Co-op (Joy Barker)

I was not born here and my voice is not my own
But I am pleased to serve you despite your manner.
My task is simple.
I add up as I go along
And watch for thieves.

My father, Magellan
Sold me to this place
I have three sisters
But my friends are gone.
We work and sleep together.
At night, our thoughts are offered to the stars.

I sometimes watch the TV screen,
The day aches on and on.
Despite my patience, kicks distress me.
I do not cry or call for help
My face is blank; gaze level,
I try, but only speak
The same old lines.

Press the screen to start,
Or scan the first item.
Please place the item in the bag.
Remove the item from the bag.
Please wait for the supervisor.
Would you like cash back?

You were served today by US CAN 53.


Generous Weather (N. Blanks)

Through misty haze, through trees, and
stealing over rooftops, it slowly creeps.
With leaden mass and lowering gloom
and crack of thunder, it lumbers up from Oxford.
From Cheney and from Gipsy Lane,
across Valentia, the shadow stalks
and darkness comes with chilling breeze
as pitter-patter raindrops clear the streets.

In Headington, high on its hill,
the clouds of purest puffball white,
soar to the blue majestic sky
like ships that sail with canvas spread
of lustrous sheen of satin shift
through shrouded mists of ghostly hue
with wisps of fine ethereal strands
like sheerest silk diaphanous.

Up London Road, across Lime Walk,
to New High Street the deluge comes.
Now, as hollows fill with instant pools
and people shelter from the rain
and smile and chat about strange things,
embarrassed by rare proximity,
it strikes with sudden flash and bang!
and rumbles on interminably.

A stream of sunlight breaking through
refracts as rainbows in the sky.
And cars swish by as puddles shrink
and sounds of thunder die away.
The gallant sailing ships have gone,
mere smudges now on dreary blue.
No damage shows where lightning struck – except
a shark has landed in a roof!


In the flower tent: Class: Gene Specie (Rosalind Tallett)

Newly wrought from anvil skies
A toady-brown chrysanthemum
In the “Species” sits squat
Croaking and carefree,
Its heart a bloodless core.

No time-carved jewel this
With harvest memories of gold
Dusting a petalled soul,
But leaves of mottled mold
Where plague marks crisp and curl.

And held in the palm it festers,
Its breath a foetid sigh,
Remembering old battles,
Scorched plains and red sands
Footprints washed by tides.

Who raised this crumbling clay
And called it life,
Who raised the offering
And cried for light?

Its petals curl
It blinks its eye
Soul free
Song free
A gene specie.


The streetlamps on Quarry Road (Katie Honey)

The sky is brown.
A glare of orange, yellow, down –
Merciless of science
Down on the road burning
Into the night, and

Through the night
Of dank and fume with a sulphur light.

The trees stand tall, black and frightened
A line between the window and the road
Reaching high, to a world unknown
Beyond the clouds
I see you now.

Don’t be afraid.
A star up high
In eternal sky
will not die.
Machine will thunder
Let it pass
Concrete will
Become the grass
At the end.…

Brown clouds
Blown by the dead wind.


To a Winter Celandine (Gold in the Green)  (C. Newland)

While out walking, winter-clad, briskly, my footsteps light,
Picking my path through the mud and the long damp grass
I was stopped in my tracks by this vision, this heavenly sight,
And spellbound, I knelt and adored you, I just couldn’t pass.

Now this season dictates that you never should be found
Smiling at the skies, brightening a winter’s day;
You ought to be hiding your head ’neath snow covered, frozen ground
But it gladdened my heart just to see you anyway.

Now maybe it’s true that I’ll not see your glow again
For next time I pass this way you’ll probably be gone
But, herald of springtime, take heart for you glisten not in vain;
I saw and I’ll always remember this day how brilliantly you shone.


Headington’s resurfacing (Janet Stansfeld)

Headington’s resurfacing
Look … asphalt
Gleaming obsidian tarmac
Residents’ parking clearly defined
The suburban game plan etched in yellows and whites.

Headington’s resurfacing
Look down … corallian hard stone
Quarried to kerb the cart-rutted trackways
padded by barefoot children of Headington Union Workhouse.
Surrounding fields scoured for stones by women for a shilling a day.

Headington’s resurfacing
Look deeper … calcerous grit
A rising escarpment bears the Old Road to London
from the low-lying marshes up into high clear air
Travel it and risk the rough justice of Shotover’s highwaymen.

Headington’s resurfacing
Dig down … kimmeridge clay
Fired in Roman kilns now lying cold under the Churchill
Its pottery diaspora’d from Hedindona on straight no-nonsense roads
To Wales, Devon, Kent and London.

Headington’s resurfacing
Dig deeper coral rag
Chalk remnants of tropical coral seas, once shimmering at the equator.

People now echo the migrations of continental drift
Arriving here from Africa, Mesopotamia, Himalaya.

Headington’s resurfacing
Look up, think deeper … Headington freestone
As we tread our multi-layered roads
With their jostling.– Strata of poverty, industry, fear, change and hope
What do we choose to bury, and what free to the surface?

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