Poetry London Prize 2020: Highly Commended

Luke Allan

Mantelpiece with Bananas

Sometimes a great boredom comes over me
when I am naked. Standing at the window
watching a man fasten his daughter into
the plastic bike-seat, then carry her away
down the car-lined road. I honestly thought
fairy lights would improve this windowsill
but they have only ruined the rest of the flat.
The sky dumps light all over our kitchen
and sunshine falls in red pixels through
the neighbour’s trampoline. A bird disappears
behind a block of apartments then reappears,
slightly older, on the other side. We try to be
good people but sometimes we’re bad ones.
We have decomposing caravans parked
on our hearts. For a moment it looks as if
all the cars have pulled in to let them through
and I try to imagine the kind of emergency
that would require the assistance of a man
and his daughter on a yellow bicycle.
Vala says she wants to play Settlers of Catan,
but what she means is she wants to crush me,
so we do, and she does. And the winner is
always that we are still dying, but together.
Then I go for a walk in my clothes like
nothing happened. Then we eat the bananas.