Alumni Poetry

We invite all alumni to submit poetry to us by emailing development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk 

All submissions will be considered for inclusion on this page and in our fortnightly eMatters newsletter. One poem will be randomly selected each fortnight to receive feedback from the judges of our poetry competition. We hope you enjoy reading some of the poetry recently submitted to us! 

 

Worn

By Polly Halladay (2016)

 

patter patter
Not the slate-tapped toe
of the trail no, not a trail at all but a stairway
scarred instead, so quaint, so walkable,
we run them – off the edge but stop
before the off follows fall.

Rail-hung, I want nothing but to turn,
ascend it web-strung, so fleeting then,
my eight legs curled into none.

The necessary scale reopens; though the land
may forgive our footfall, bleeding passage,
we force when we needn’t to.

 

 

 

 

Adieu

By Lucy Pearce (2014)

 

Now take my hand and hold it tight,

Entwined in yours throughout the night

And don't even think that you might Dissolve my grip before daylight.

The rays of our love create a blinding light That shines throughout our hearts at night, So don't you think the ends insight.

The time you're claimed is not tonight!

But alas this cannot be so,

And your heart, though it does glow

The strongest rays become softened, faint, more mellow

As the pulse begins to slow.

I gaze above the stars at night

And when I see them burning bright,

I know that the most dazzling light,

Is she who put up the strongest fight,

The one that has longest endured,

And she who could not have loved me more.

 

 

 

 

 

What is it with the 100 metres?

By Barnaby Powell (1962)

 

Look, to run this race is flight and fight at once:

You flee your primal fears and carve your fate.

 

The feral crowd responds to this as they

Would watch a pack of dogs go chasing rabbits,

All competing for the kill. The sprinter loves

The dry rush of adrenalin, the surge

Of hitting sweet spot on full stride,

Go blazoning a trail in crazed cavort

To victory in this most antic of extremity.

 

The terror comes in the interminable space

Between the crouch and the gun. The pity

Comes with hollow devastation of defeat

For those anointed ones puffed up

As victors. Now is the dare phenomenal,

In which each runner vies to spring out

First to ratchet up, sustain the stride rate

Long enough to overhaul the rest.

 

You have to run the race to know this.

Ask Alan Wells if ever you should meet him –

He will tell you how Olympic edge is won.

 

Don’t see ‘the hundred’ as a circus feat. It’s

Something unrehearsed and fleeting, where

Suspense hangs briefest, maddening the crowd

With its intensity, what makes them jump and shout.

It’s flash in pan of eight men shot out from

A gun with just one bursting on ahead -

A shooting star. By contrast, all other such

Events are calmer, measured, more strategic

And more rational, which makes this race

The blue riband or stand-out event

With its rough scramble straightening up

To smooth in seconds in a searing struggle,

Which allows minutest margin of an error

In avoiding sudden death. It is the total focus

And attention span allotted by the runners

To the feat, which galvanises, even hypnotises

The spectator. There you have it - on the line.

 

 

 

 

 

Capital 

By Matthew McKaig (1983)

 

Becoming bleached by flagless wealth,

And in so doing,

Becoming something else.

 

The binding mortar,

Rendered down to water,

So enjoins the flume.

 

Each part fractured into lots,

Each part slavish swept below,

All surging in the greasy flow.

 

The capital becomes this name,

A simple currency: its shame.

And washed-out London rots.

 

 

 

 

Unshingling

By Annoushka Clear (2016)

 

Later I

Half-waking fingers

Reaching between

And I find

Nothing, nothing that

Half-waking, I knew

Was true

 

And I felt that gulf in the taxi

Bending and

Snaking my

Knowledge into

Unknowledge,

 

It hums, shivers atoms,

Shingling

 

Towards parting

You gave me your hand,

Silent splay-fingered:

There were your knuckles

 

And splitting flat yellow

Under your window without a sill

Our inescapable outlines

Now strike me in relief.

 

 

 

 

S130  Strange Lights
By James Gordon (1962)

 

The square was darkling as we entered it,

Sitters on benches, dogs on exercise,

Few children playing; how many unseen eyes

Looked from the myriad windows, then unlit?

As I was seeking out a space to sit,

My face thrust upward, jerked by sudden cries,

As windows blazed, all gazing at the skies.

Bright lights in tandem! To and fro they flit,

Wheel, turn, and hover, clearly recognised

As flying objects unidentified!

I watched, enthralled, thrilled to my very bones,

As they swooped to skirt the trees, then climbed to ride

Up from the gazing throng, till I realised.

These dancing lights were naught but common drones.

 

 

 

 

Aquaerial 
By Peter Wellby (1964)

 

Squadrons wing high above sea-cliffs,

bandits at noon,

a flight of feathered missiles

plummet from a hundred feet

to a geyser of spume-spray;

concussing sea at sixty miles an hour

they dive fathoms coursing sardine and squid.

 

Saffron-naped,

eyes gimletting through pale blue spectacles,

stare-mad as herons, a focus so intent

they burn a flame with magnifying glare,

until the sea boils at their gaze

flashes white lightning.

 

Domestic, in their reeking colony

pairs clacket art-deco bills

like amorous castanets;

dumpy, draggled chicks, stinking guano,

the racket of their squabbles and trysts,

ciphers for nests: lumps of seaweed and dung,

like elegant horsewomen, groomed and plumed,

returning home to slattern sluttery.

 

When I see gannets set astride the wind,

cruising assertively,

I soar with them in their cool mastery

of the invisible mysteries of air,

join in breath-taking plunges from the sun,

chase tigered mackerel through the boisterous sea,

shadow their zig-zags with my poignard bill

and fathoms deep asleep, hunt with them still.