MAG Poetry Competition 2011 – Shortlisted Poem

Throwing Apples At The Sky

by Bernard Brooks

In the hospice garden
We threw apples at the sky,
While your dad lay dying.
 
Bright red they flew in a fiery arc,
And we joked they’d reach the sun,
As he retreated breath by breath.                                      
 
We climbed the sagging branches, laughing
With the burden of summers bounty,
As his body surrendered, spark by spark.
 
The sound of floating playground antics
Mingled with our playful cries,
As the fire in his veins was quenched.
 
And then the world continued just as before,
In the aftermath of that long brutal fight,
In the suddenly still quiet room,
His body became a husk
Emptied of its self,
Beached forever on the strand of time,
We looked out of the window,
Bittersweet memories in the winds eye,
Our windfall tears drying
Like a fading lullaby.
Relieved, but too guilty to rejoice,
I thought of the apple blossom,
And the curve of your ten summers,
Like a rainbow bisected
By the dark fire of his death.
 
Outside the birds still sang,
Skylarks hovered over the fields,
Hawks traversed on unseen currents.
 
His last breath filled the empty room,
Infusing us with pain and anguish,
As they carted his shell away.
 
We sauntered back to the hospice garden,
Kicking the rotten fallen fruit,
The rules of the game changed forever.

Added: 07.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem

04.05.2011

very effective but it might have been yet more effective to say 'our fatherwas dying'as opposed to your

04.05.2011

lovely

14.05.2011

The varied use of the apple image, and the structure of the poem itself, embodies the emotional journey of the children.

17.05.2011

This poem starts interestingly however becomes far too literal in the central, long stanza, which spoils the effect.

17.05.2011

A very moving poem that made some profound points. I particularly liked the last line.

19.05.2011

I love the two worlds in this. How easily children can detach themselves from reality.

23.05.2011

There is true feeling in this poem and the metaphor of the apples works very well

29.05.2011

love how the image of the apples frames the poem's beginning and ending, while in the middle - sadness and loss. works very well.

06.06.2011

Very moving. The contrast of child's play and death is very poignant.

07.06.2011

As an employee of a hospice and also losing a relative who was a patient I found this poem extremely moving. Well done

08.06.2011

I strongly liked this, some vital ideas, like life and deatn in the same instant.

08.06.2011

A beautiful poem

08.06.2011

Nice contrasts, although it gives a careless feeling at the beginning. Really like the bisected rainbow idea. Rotting apples a nice touch.

08.06.2011

Enjoyed the contrasts. Polarities ... and then the reality of encounter. Excellent!

09.06.2011

Liked this but not one of my top four.

09.06.2011

Poet distances him/herself from the death of 'your' dad. Very clever and moving poem.

10.06.2011

Moving, brave and beautiful imagery...and a gutsy last line. Thank you.

10.06.2011

Good, moving subject, though is the fire motif a little laboured??

10.06.2011

My mother works in a hospice, and I feel my father is headed there too, but not as staff... thank you for this poem. It means a lot to me.

11.06.2011

Great title - surprising and exuberant. I also liked 'surrendered spark by spark.'

11.06.2011

the best poem I have read here

12.06.2011

This is wonderful poetry- gentle yet catching me by the throat. Elegant, pithy use of language. Please keep writing, you'll win something.

13.06.2011

I really liked the image of the apples, but I thought the rainbow line could be softened or made more subtle, it pulled me out of the page

13.06.2011

'the curve of your ten summers/like a rainbow bisected/ by the dark fire of his death.' - this is a very effective and moving image.

17.06.2011

A single striking image developed to moving effect

17.06.2011

i can relate to this, very good images and great ending.

18.06.2011

strong lines with vivid imagery and some honest emotions expressed well.

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