Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

Looking for inspiration

by John Keenan

I strike a match
And my Grandma’s house flares up again.
Across the flickering amber room,
my face is staring back at me,
gawping mouth, yellow flash hanging out
where my tongue should be.
I strike another match.
Cream walls ripple like the sea
and the brown tiled fireplace is heavy
with the smell of tobacco, chewed, spat out.
Every photo on the mantelpiece
turns to sepia.
I climb the Burnt Sienna lino-ed stairs.
Behind the bedroom door, it’s me again,
full length this time, quivering.
So much to see, hat boxes, suitcases,
a varnished chest of drawers with brass handles,
all full of clothes, letters, scents.
Go on! One more strike!
The Singer’s wheel glints and spins.
I am a burglar
and worse, I keep ghosts penned up in these rooms,
illuminated by my finger tips.
I should drop this match.
Immolate these spirits, set them free,
slash and burn, move on.
But instead, I lick my thumb and finger
and with an almost inaudible hiss,
I nip the glowing tip of the last match
and leave everything exactly as it was.

Added: 17.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


The subject is so relatable, and I'm in love with your imager;, you did a great job with this. Suggestion: maybe tweak the title a bit?


The thought of this poem could be developed further, but it is nicely crafted and uses repetition effectively.


I could relate to this poem and the well expressed feelings in it. Loved the images and use of words.


Very descriptive, and forms pictures in the mind as I read.