MAG Poetry Competition 2010 – Shortlisted Poem


by Victoria Rose Poolman

She pushed the sensor mat under the bed with a yellowed heel;
She wasn’t stupid.
She sat and wavered to the clock’s tick, the tap’s drip,
The second hand sticking at ten,
Slowing the ending down.
She shunted to the edge of the bed and grasped the felt blanket,
Knuckles blue with tired blood.
Heaving forward, she shuffled to the zimmer
And set off in her nightie,  
Slippers racing wheels down the polished corridor
As room numbers began the count-down.
She passed the toilet with its disinfectant smell,
The kitchen with its meals in glasses,
The store cupboard with its creams and pads.
She passed the television room, as behind pink flickers
Steve McQueen struggled in the barbed wire,
Desperate for Switzerland.
The old man slumped in the corner
Raised his head like a giant turtle,
Exchanging a glance as
Sheepskin-coated feet arrived at the door.
She reached up, fingers shaking,
The wrinkles in her forehead growing deeper
And then the door eased open.
Out into the snow, the blanket curled around her.
She fell, red on white,
And when they found her,
She was smiling.

Added: 30.04.2010

Judges' comments on this poem


This poem is elegant and simple but has a story to tell. It has some excellent images and makes me want to read it again.


Nicely vivid images, a strong atmosphere, without being overly sentimental.


Poignant and curously life-affirming! A lovely poem.


Closely observed. Precise language. Sustained / restrained tone. Great lines, 'as room numbers began the count down', 'the kitchen..glasses'


Such a beautiful capturing of the last moments. Gave me shivers.




Liked the sparse way this picture of old age was conveyed. Good verbs. Quite poignant.


I like the way the rythym mirrors the old lady's progression and bid for freedom.


A very successful poem.


Great sense of tension at the start - 'clocks..drips' then movement 'as room ..countdown' nuanced by what we see in the toilet, kitchen etc


Wonderful use of comedy and pathos "set off in her nightie"-so funny! Room nos/countdown:great! Turtle head really works.Fab energy overall


Reluctantly excluded from my top 4.