Week 34 – entries and results

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Photograph by Chris Sims

 Thanks for your patience. Just back from New York and able to spend a bit of time at the Poetry Space desk! Thank you all for voting. I am delighted to announce that the winning poem is My Father’s Hands by Michael Docker. Congratulations! I enjoyed reading all the poems.

Poem 1

Old Hands on Familiar Wood


He knows the grain of the wood so well

he doesn’t even have to open his eyes –

it’s been there, in front of him,

for as long as he can remember.


The white cloth is merely a guide

nothing at all to do with surrender –

he’s not ready to give up just yet,

not ready to remove his leather watch.


So many feet have passed him by,

he’s lost count of shape, size, texture.

Scrape, pull, scrape, push, busy hands

his thoughts active

or at rest,


he has the power to choose.


At night, when he removes

dark glasses

he sees the wood before his eyes,

has to restrain his hands from twitching

scrape, pull, scrape push – marking time.


 Alison Hill


Poem 2

The Carpenter

Understands the wood;

looks at the bark, whittles it back

feels the heat from the friction

sees the sawdust gather around,

remembers the lichen it sprinkled off

onto the blade rubbed back

smudged grey, the new wood.

Stares at the grain, sands it down,

fashions a chair, strong back, sturdy arms

graceful legs, tough feet, makes room

plenty of seating at the theatre

sits back and admires the production.


Johanna Boal


Poem 3

These Hands

The veins pump the blood
to fingers that hold the wood

The old man sits
at the same lathe
making parts for the boats
the rich buy.

He sees smooth hulls
slide in Southwold seas
the beautiful ones
sun themselves on the decks.

All dressed to this years trend
perfect cap, best dungarees
laughing and drinking
shining in decadence.

The hard skin on his hand
made the curves that sparkle
sweat from his brow
the cutting prow that
slices waves now.

Andy Scotson


Poem 4



Muscles extended, retract

as the old lathe slices

filaments of wood from

the thin branch peeling bark

mottled by summer’s wrath

revealing white elm .


An old rag protects from chips

slips, the odd cut as she watches

silent, dark the flash of his ring

as his watch times every sweep


of the lathe as it once logged

his sorties as his spitfire spun

overhead before she placed

the ring on his finger.


Carolyn O’Connell


Poem 5

My Father’s hands


My Father’s hands, skilled at pulling

A spokeshave or the wrapped tang

Of a file along the grain of ash or pine

Till flesh turned white, blood retreated,

Work was hard and a post was carved –


Hands that held me

While my flesh grew, blood

Made way and I learned other skills;


Hands that dressed me,

Warmed me, handed on,

Never raised in anger;


Hands with chipped nails, a ring

Scratched and marked from woodwork,

Old scars from a slipped chisel;


Hands that cracked

With age,


Hands I loved, feared,

Folded over a failed heart –


Rest now, finished like formed wood..


Michael Docker