First Prize – Victoria Gatehouse

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This is the hour when she thinks of the field,
the rough embrace of dry-stone walls,
end-of-summer grasses, whispering
their untidy truths, the tooth-hole ruin

of that barn where she first found the pellets –
compact parcels of feathers and fur,
the pale gleam of bone within, each one
packaged like a gift so she had no choice

but to return every evening, at owl-light
and wait for that change in the air, the weight
that comes on silent wings, talons trailing
the tips of the wheat. Half a lifetime ago

and still the bleeding, unseen beneath gold,
the skeletons in her pocket, carried home.

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