2nd Place – Miriam Patrick of Hurstpierpoint
The Southwell Masons
When they come they bring the forest with them,
thrushes sing in their bags, the rustle of leaves
is in their voices. Lithe as coppiced hazel or thick set
as oak, they carry the scent of loam and leaf mould.
They come as Autumn, heavy with acorns, hips
and brambles. Pigs root in beech mast at their feet.
Working, they perform a curious kind of alchemy,
Replacing woodland with the stony image of itself.
The Green Man sighs, as ivy coils round branches
and abandons colour, oak leaves become brittle,
swags of hawthorn weave into a frieze of limestone,
a hare grows petrified between the jaws of lurchers.
And what of those masons? I think of them, clad in russet,
slinging their bags across their shoulders, returning
to the forest, longing to escape the chink of tools on stone,
eager for leaf fall and the robin’s melancholy voice.
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