2022 Commended - Tallula Haynes, 'Alleyway Farmer'


Commended - 2022 Tower Poetry Competition, 'Dream'


Alleyway Farmer

Sheepskin - my fingers run across the rug and

trace the faded roads, a nail tugging on a loose hair to

unravel its paths, its design - this is Year Four.

My sheet, my map, in one hand,

A pencil in the other between the stubs of three fingers and a “What

do you want to be?” Seriously, me? But drugged by

the garden’s fantasy and a youth of yoghurt pots

I trace round each letter with the probe of a pen,

pricking the sheet - grandmother’s embroidery - I create.

Farmer’.  A fantasy.


Years of that carpet vaporise right before

me, and eyes lulled, I mould each day into a

final sculpture of clay childhood. One day

I’ll fly (aeroplane or not it, doesn't matter)

and far away, I bet, in the Bahamas, there’s

no puberty or drawer of left letters,

a loose thread, the number inscribed counting up,

periodically, as Ma watches it, a clock. Each

one once opened leads away Saturday’s

pocket money.


On my shoulder, a cupped palm,

cold, calloused but recognisable. That size, a fossilised imprint into my

skin. Looking, there’s a curve of her lips and

the rising of her cheeks so that her

eyes squint and she can’t see me;

lips begin to part, tongue rolling within to formulate

a sound, a syllable, an anything,

Ma - it speaks. No,

that is not my mother, can’t be. She’d never,

you can’t smile underground. A fantasy.


And I’d never, I blink, drinking in the blue of the morning. In the alley again,

still. Good, wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Because today’s fruit: A bouquet of crumpled notes, twenties,

green and rusting, soiled by a bloody nose -

found them on the floor, I’swear -

see how I clutch them, touched to my chest

cause petals fly away if they can.