Now the moment you've all been waiting for; the winner of the 2007 West Kent Book Fair Poetry Competition, organised jointly by Mr. Books Bookshop in Tonbridge and Green Arrow Publishing Ltd. is this poem by Emma Harding of Tonbridge, who has received a cool £100 and will be published in the winning anthology, Fine Scribes 3, along with the other prize winners and Commended entries (available from selected book shops and by mail order:
Heathrow, 5 a.m.
The airport that never sleeps
is sleeping; on plastic seats
shapes are curled under coats
like Vesuvian corpses
felled in transit, faces veiled
as though ashamed at nature’s urges.
Submerged beneath fluorescent
are echoes of footsteps, a phantom
trolley, the lullaby of escalators
that carry no one on their backs,
while endlessly revolving doors
fan flightless wings in the empty air.
The time of your departure
is programmed on every synapse,
yet still you check the ticket wording,
sift handbag muddle for passport leather
in case, somehow, it bailed out
between car park and carpet-lawned hangar.
You try to ignore the parting lovers
who cling in tears beside Departures,
remember the sleeping form you left
two hours ago, mumbling incoherent
at your slapstick exit. No grand farewell
for four days’ absence.
The cabin crew in royal blue
carnival past on well-oiled wheels
disdaining you with bright efficiency.
This rare moment in your life,
the implausibility of flight (yours)
to them a humdrum commonplace.
You drain the dregs of your coffee cup,
pull up your DVT prevention socks,
assemble boarding card and mint imperials
to join the bleary queue. On board soon,
flying backwards through the time zones.
Finger your boarding card. Now, voyager.