Winner of the 12th Kathleen Julia Bates Memorial Writing Competition
by Elizabeth Honey
A walnut is the brain of a tiny ancient dinosaur,
protected by two wooden boats
joined together after the War of the Squirrels
Almonds are wooden teeth from the mask of Hadro Gull,
too hideous to look upon,
but if you did look upon it and did not die
then your hair would fall out and you’d be petrified granite
in just one second.
Pecans? says Yuval.
When the Holy Priestess of Darmon rode the waves
there were pecants, but pecants are well nigh impossible
and no matter how she tended them they up and died,
so nobody bothers growing them now,
in fact there are only three pecants in the world
Pistachios from the Veiled North are holy fruit,
symbolised in the royal court by the tongues of old cockatoos
which is why they are favoured by monkeys and kings
and jugglers who toss them in that tired old hawker’s disappearing trick
You know the one?
And now the toughest nut of all, from Macadamia,
the ancient Chinese-checker nut, sent by junk to Uku Haadeer
where stern crackers in puffy white shower-caps and blue aprons
perched in rows at wind-powered machines with red wheels
and cracked each nut one-by-one and dropped them in a cup – Ding!
But you can’t crack me, I say, and I leap. Oww!
Nut find nut, says Yuval.
“This poem immediately engages the reader: Who is Yuval? Why should we listen to what Yuval says? The strong first line opens to a story and following stanzas introduce new stories, each connected but very different. While the reader engages with the strong imagery, they are also eavesdropping on the conversation between the teller and the listener. Language is simple but each word works hard to scaffold imagining. At the end there’s a twist that brings lightness and tongue-in-cheek humour. The poem is cohesive and creates rich images. Well done.” Competition Judge Claire Saxby