Poetry Competition 2010 – 3rd Prize Winner

Sea Story

by Joanna Humm

I sent my body drifting to the bottom of the sea
The forests of the underworld a resting place for me
But quick your servants found me and awoke my lifeless eyes
Before your throne they laid me and you took me as your prize
And you were King of all the Sea that stretched beneath the skies
A palace rich with coral and a kingdom built on lies
Neptune’s firmament of stars burned brighter when you spoke
Your scales were gilded by the sun and dazzled simple folk
But when a shaft of moonlight briefly filtered through the brine
An evil iridescence seemed to flit across your spine
You woke my soul with music, played me songs upon your lyre
My anguish stilled with silk and fur, my sorrow warmed with fire
And having twined my hair with knotted pearls and shards of glass
Your courtiers bade me dance with them beneath the crystal stars
That night you took me hunting through the chasms of the deep
Where phosphorescent shadows made our foamy horses leap
And blinded darkling creatures of the cavern lay in wait
They groped at me with icy hands and whispered of my fate
That loved I’d be – until the King had use for me no more
My body – torn and washed up once again upon the shore
You hushed my frightened shudders with your clever words of balm
And swore to slay those creatures that would look to do me harm
You held me close against you and I let you kiss me thrice,
Upon the crumpled forehead once, upon the eyelids twice
You loved too fierce and loving fiercely loved not well at all
Did you foresee, my love, the way your golden crown would fall?
An army of ten thousand beasts approached the city gate,
The drummers drummed and mermaids sang: the King must meet his fate!
The revolution seized you for you could not hold its force
They burnt you as you’d burnt them, neither did they show remorse
Yet, my Lord, t’was me you meant and not yourself at all
When long ago you carved those words upon the chamber wall
‘You’ll leave me to the Devil if you leave me all alone
For without you there to stop him he would have me for his own’
My throat was choked by seaweed and my heart a shattered core
Away I crawled and sent my body drifting to the shore

Added: 30.04.2010

Judges' comments on this poem


A well-executed formal poem with a strong narrative. The language is a little archaic in places, which will alienate some readers.


Such beauty and such sadness married to such determination. Traditional rhythms were a comfort and a joy to read.


Some wonderful lines. A real story.


Ryming couplets which read a bit like Shakespeare and made me feel like I was watching a play with ornate costumes and magnificent scenery.


my favourite so far, very deep.


The relationship and the personalities involved in it are well portrayed in this sustained metaphor