2020 Commended - Sabrina Coghlan-Jasiewicz, 'Burial Rites'


Commended - 2020 Tower Poetry Competition, 'Trees'


Burial Rites


Over the bruised cheek of the world

The veil of blue quiet rippled, furled

Inward as the soldiers stirred, sighed,

Disturbed the night with their sightless


Weeping. The earth, seeping purple,

Hardened itself under their trampling,

Drained last battle’s blood, and steeled

Itself against sun-up’s new spillage.




In the yawn of darkness, the living

Set to work. Among the littering

Of limbs, they lit upon their kin,

Closed the staring eyes, kissed their cold skin,


And took them gently into their own

Arms, as mothers might have held their sons.

With care, each soldier raised them up,

And burdened, lumbered slowly back.




Emerging from the shadowed coppice,

Which rung still with the crack of axes

Meeting oak, soldiers came with arms

Filled with boughs. They took them to where,


Upon a bed of broken branches,

The dead were laid out like packages

As yet undelivered, and balanced

The new wood around them like tents.




The men gathered, some distance away,

While others advanced with flaming

Torches in hand. Each pyre stood

A dark mass of dismembered limbs,


With wounds still dripping their tender dew

Of blood, and the watching soldiers knew

That they themselves and the trees were one,

Fated to be felled by men and burnt.



When the bodies were lit, and clothed in the shroud

Of purest fire, the men’s own armour

Blazed against their skin. And so, each man,

Watching the slowly purpling sky and


Fearful of the horrors dawn would bring,

Cradled that which Sibyl told their King:

The gates of hell are open night and day;

Smooth the descent, and easy is the way*.


*from The Aeneid, trans. John Dryden