The Bare Fiction Prize For Poetry, 2016- ‘Guests’

It’s been a funny 2 years for me since my eccentric dad died. 2 years in limbo, travelling up and down the A9 between Orkney and Halifax, dodging rabbits and roadkill, boarding ferries, packing boxes, burning papers.

I started 2017 in Hawthornden Castle, Edinburgh, with 5 other writers- all inspiring, encouraging, interesting, lovely people. Whilst there I received the news that I had won the ‘Bare Fiction’ prize for poetry my poem ‘Guests’. It’s about the warm resilience of my wonderful mother who, on one freezing December morning in Orkney at dawn shortly after my dad had died when me and my brother stood sad and shivering outside the caravan we’d be staying in, said “Look up!” and we did and, my god! So many stars. They made us dizzy! She does that does my mum. She draws our attention to the light.

Here’s ‘Guests’. You can read the other winners excellent poems by clicking on this link for ‘Bare Fiction’ .

Thank you so much Helen Mort for selecting ‘Guests’. Big thanks also to Robert Harper for bis patience and communication whilst I was ‘off the grid’ in the castle.



It’s a dull, wet

liver-red light

that shines

from the dead tonight

and we have used up

all our candles.


Today, all day,

she has been

making things right,

telling the dust to leave,

polishing mirrors,

stewing the bed sheets

in sunshine,


and now, at dusk

I see the glow

of my mother

out in the garden

carrying naked flames

in her palms

like lotus buds,

warding off

the wolfish dreams,

the darkness,


and coaxing back

the good things

we have lost,

making them

cheese on toast

and cocoa

guiding them

to the lavendered

guest rooms

of our house,.

saying ‘dead or alive

you are welcome here’.















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