Poetry London Prize 2020: 1st PRIZE

Eleanor Penny

Winter, a biography

I’ll admit I was raised in a red house by a woman with red hands on a bare hill, 
where birds walked on the ground and it was always winter and death
did not exist. She never married. She knelt down on the ice. Her mouth
red as an axe swung through the stomach of a cat. She held a handful of seeds. 
She buried them and expected nothing. Death did not exist. I couldn’t read
but I nailed the book through its heart to a tree, and waited. Spring’s surrender 
flag rippled alabaster in the distance. Sharp sigh of horizon. Winter a thin murmur 
of bone. You were there too, admit it. The brittle child of us riding the same song 
witless and burning to the old bridge like a stolen car. Stars, waterlogged
and filthy in the river. Glossy, bloated nettles humming by the road. Every 
Saturday a man in a red coat measured the shape of our skulls. Every
tree had a someone to climb it with a dishcloth in their mouth
to wipe its shining branches leafless, black. I held the weight of snow
in my arms like a sleeping animal. We drove unwatched across the border.

Full knuckled summer struck me speechless. Forgive me if I’ve been a stranger 
here. Once again it’s winter, and you can sleep in my arms like snow.