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Bronze Quill Winners
Winning Entries 2017


Winner:  After the Blast   by Fran Graham


He's done two tours of duty in Iraq.

Now he's doing a tour of the local clinic.

He's lost something; he's not sure what

or even if he ever had it. Or had it

but was unaware he had it. Either way

it's eluding him, running away like gunfire.


He thought he was happy to be there until

the roadside bomb blew the tank he was driving

clean off the ground. While seeing to his commanding

officer's bloody face and eyes, it occurred to him

he didn't want to be there anymore. But he

had to finish his tour so just a part of him deserted.


Several years on, others began to notice.

He couldn't smell the flowers or charm

the fish. The atmosphere was wooden. He

couldn't see colour; everything was sepia

or black and white. Black mainly.

He rocked back on his heels and was stuck.


His speech became hard to understand, like war.

It buzzed, rippled, echoed, but remained

camouflaged, bunkered down.

It became the enemy. He had to keep on

repeating himself. It caused embarrassment. Like defeat.

It was beginning to look like a hill he had to climb.


He was afraid of parked cars and wheelie bins.

His wife was burnt out trying to help.

He was a shadow she didn't recognise.

His baby daughter was unsettled by his strangeness.

Finally panic set in and he wept          desperate.

So they admitted him to the clinic      hopeful.


We stand vigil while he looks for himself             expectant.

His search will be painful, but in solitude he might

lose the phantoms and find laughter again

forget the madness, his and the world's, and articulate

clearly that he's come through, flying like a bird

the ceasefire resting easy in his head.



Runner Up:  Muresk        by Lynne Cairns

I pull the curtains back

Sleep facing the sky

Hoping in vain for stars.


Morning brings the consolation

Of swooping,swirling Cockatoos

White on white, against the clouded sky


Screeching, they drop

To applique the treetops

With white ephemeral flowers


Or fall to earth

To startle shadowy sheep

That drift among

The stubble's blunt-cut fringes

Highly Commended:  cosmology and life            by Frances Richardson


she sits among missed moments

ponders on how time may curve

different definitions of light

why strings may take her through

relative mystery mechanics


today, her discussion on Fermi's Paradox

was ignored or patronised

while others applauded

their efforts on spectroscopy


with a wave at the laptop

- wishing for Hubble's brain that the

universe would slow –

she sees black holes

swallow her new years


Highly Commended:  Parade of Snakes          by Sue Colyer


Snakes came singly to the pink stone slab

On a hot summer's day, and I at the garden gate to rest there.


From the embankment slope to the terrace above,

I came to the gate, to wait, to stand and wait,

As Lawrence waited, for snakes to parade before me.


The snakes appeared, each one alone,

From the shelter of the gloom of shade

Trailing their coloured scales to the sun warmed stone.

Black, brown, pink, green, lustrous.

Lifting their heads to observe their observer, momentarily warmed,



They lay before me at my gate

And I, like an intruder, a voyeur, must wait.


Each in turn lifted its head, with cautious stare,

And flicked its two-forked tongue to sense the air. A warning?

Then coiled, and turned back to the shelter of the shade.

A passing parade, a shimmery rainbow slipping by.

Though some are endangered, they survive,

Ubiquitous and harmless, in the forest's emerald greenness.


I smiled at this procession of ophidian colour and optical conversation.

How honoured I was that they came to my warm oasis de paix,

And depart calm, unharmed and safe

In the shelter of this rustic haven.


No voice said: Kill them. Only humility, to feel so connected. No violent act.

What wonder to have had a chat!

To talk with Lawrence, to vision his snake both admired and feared.


I was not afraid, nor were the snakes.

We were both at home, sharing our mutual hospitality,

A moment in time and space,

Resting in the warmth of the garden sanctuary.


Acknowledgment: D.H  Lawrence's  poem Snake [1923]


Highly Commended:     Balance       by Geraldine Day


Today, driving to get her to visit our shared family

for updates of footie mishaps, T-ball wins and count new baby teeth,

I hear your breath in the quiet of the car.

Ahead, a bruised rainbow bands the fizz of morning

the storm passed.  Yours beginning.

Your foot brakes as I slow for traffic lights and we smile

know your driving days are over, know your pain will never shift gear.


Do I tell you of my trip? How the Tuscan hills captured me

and I toasted them with blue champagne

Rome tired me with its no-holds barred traffic

but how could I not love the piazzas, statues, the language of tortellini.

And Paris, Paris, layered in spring, flaunted love

along the nightgarden banks of the Seine.

Do I tell you all this?  But no, it would be churlish so I keep it to myself.


Our love splintered, days widened, words shortened

and you leapt through a pause in conversation.

The overdrive of family unwrapped strewn

feelings of anger, exposed a gateway of balance.


I notice how hard you focus on the road, pointing out turns

and speed limits, hands doing their own version of new-age jive.

Do you miss the dancing?  Still feel the rhythm of coloured notes?


Your throat rattles, breath motes dip and fade.

Memory scrabbles for names, what the doctor said yesterday

but you remember you have no photo of our grand-daughter

words spilling, breathless, guilty.        Chasing yourself.

Finding a stranger.


Commended:      to nowhere           by Rosie Barter


i go out now into white shadow

beyond all glimmering busyness

rebus-stops, timetables, taxes,

tweets, dentists, carbon-levy,

refugees and breast scans


of breast scans and the uneven portent

of a small accessible tumour

to be taken tomorrow, clean and swift,

from my daughter's left breast


in the hospital

my 39-year-old witch-child

russet-haired, white-faced

same grey eyes, sucks her thumb

we've got it  they say as she comes to

they got it  we yell,

fizzing like shaken lemonade

her husband, the children and me

so helpless in our love


next day pathology disagrees

active cells in the ductal tissue

aggressive form fast-moving

chemo regime for forty weeks

left breast to the knife in March

right breast off come August

a genetic blood-clotting disorder

orders caution on unsteady ground

one step at a time to nowhere


alone at home i pick up a book

from its cover the dalai lama smiles

reminds me there is no god

a slow drum beats


Commended:        Forgetting                 by Rosie Barter


Me? Still a girl?

In the gilt-framed oval mirror

someone slack-jawed and cracked

looks back.

Do you see me as I do

                  or is your heart as blind

as mine is enduring

                  in its ambivalence.


We do not speak of our past.

I have put up the gate.

Keep it locked.

Admit you like a short-term guest

into the neat parlour of my heart's mansion.

You've been tidied away.

Letters in a shoebox from hip strangers.

Black and white photos from Delphi,

Cairo, Barcelona, Jaipur, Tehran.

Dried roses.


                               The ring.


Better you forget me I say,

deaf as I am to your knocking.

                       Though you insist on persisting,


through the key-hole.


Commended:            optical illusion              by Rosie Barter


three years old   I   she repeats bars  I  six per square  I

perfect square  I  pluperfect  I

& a treble clef      curve on curve       creating spirals

four base colours       tremulous

but overdone     no lax flaw of human frailty

just flippant infancy            testing testing.


like a clock face     I    a clock face  I    clock face  I        face.

aged nine         in the city gallery      she finds

Luo Ping \ Self Portrait in Wicker Cape and Hat dressed

as a peasant \ eyes to see ghosts \ smell out

corruption \ sharp crisp strokes \ mechanical.


ten thousand ugly ink dots        no soft edges.


fifteen>art school>a crush on Escher>

his intersecting planes        sphere-spirals      fishes

& scales      moebius strips       his encounter with

pre-destination     whirlpools       ascending & descending.


she wants to be the one to instruct the planets in

what orbs to run < but there is no winding mechanism.


at eighteen  fugitive [from her error of love]

she paints true carmine with her blood

smears ultramarine over orange        razors out green

blue as blue days           nights blacker        bleared sun


from perfect square to damned rainbows.


she folds A4 in four         unfolds      and folds again

again/ again/ again/ again/ again/ again/ again.


seven times* she folds.


*It is impossible to fold a sheet of paper more than seven times


Commended:    Last Dance      by Maria Bonar


I danced with you grudgingly

that first time.

You, with your slicked-down hair,

shirt smelling faintly

of horses and sheep.

Me, lip curled, nose in the air.


Changed days! I'm ashamed that

the first time we danced,

I treated you with such meanness.

When you rescued me

from the bushfire,

passion flared between us.


On the wings of the morning

you came for me

riding your chestnut mare.

I swung up behind you

we rode through the smoke,

sparks shooting high in the air.


Gum trees exploded in

mad bombs of fire.

Crackling flames chased us high up the ridge.

Wind gusted like thunder

as we cleared the crest

and Peg galloped down to the bridge.


On the wings of the morning

you came for me

riding your chestnut mare.

You called me sweetheart

and pledged me your love,

with a diamond solitaire.


At Blackboy Hill

we whirled our last dance.

"Be over by Christmas," they said.

Neither you nor Peg

returned from France.

Sadly, we never did wed.


On the wings of the morning

I think of you

riding your chestnut mare.

Mad bombs explode

as you ride through the smoke

at Villers-Bretonneux.