Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2010

The Good Life

by Suzanne Saw

above my little figure, in his yellow shirt; that's dad
tending a conservative bonfire,
too tame a blaze to make the Henley townsfolk cough.
my pleasure visible, my chest
not yet occupied by woodland,
still satisfied by well-known paths. 

too small to fear disappearing paths,
happy in the present, guided by dad. 
my concept of woodland
safeguarded by wombles. our bonfire
consumes suburban sticks; a chair, a chest
of drawers. no subtext to a cough.

our eyes might water, but it's fun. a cough
does not imply "unseen traveller on hidden paths".
shoulders back, i puff my chest,
grapple with the giant rake. my dad
proud of his small bonfire
but dreaming of woodland.

the Good Life is a sociable dream. real woodland
quietly underlines the implications of a cough
behind a hedge; the smell of bonfire
smoke suspended in paths
freshly opened by dad,
realized ambition inflating his chest.

as the overgrowth invades his chest,
my first dreams of woodland
populate it with wolves. they separate me from dad
who has not yet begun to cough 
but with exponential urgency carves his paths
piling branches on the place we call "the bonfire"

up to twelve feet high, these unstable piles of bonfire
inspire distrust; a hollow in my chest. 
so i seek the wilderness between paths
mossy fungal smells, disintegration, boundaries. our woodland
tangles into the neighbours', a cough
my measure of how far i am from dad.

but light a bonfire and enjoy the woodland,
purge your chest with one great cough;
there is beauty down paths cleared by dad. 

Added: 30.04.2010

Judges' comments on this poem


I thought that the words were well-chosen and evocative in this poem.