Winner of The Poetry Society's Stanza Competition in 2016, judged by Ros Barber. Ros: from 'blocks of fog loaded on their carts' - is a persistently surprising poem, precise in its imagery and gentle in the tenuous rhymes of its couplets. So many striking lines - 'each footprint they made was a black bite'; 'they beetled up ladders into silver scaffolding'; 'pearls shivering on your skin and hair' - ending in the haunting (and beautifully cadenced) image of the final line: 'a silent, faceless, stretch-limbed twin'. A delightful rendering of the real into the surreal and back again, with silence the background and the closing motif. Pat: Years ago I met a man who talked about meeting himself when he was cross-country running through fog. I’ve tried to write about it many times, but the poems were always rather flimsy. I had to leave him behind and enter the world of fog itself. Fog has always seemed like a silent miracle to me. It transforms everything. It seems so solid. People talk about a wall of fog, don’t they? Once I latched onto the idea that people might actually build this wall and stopped trying to tell his story, I had material I could really work with.

The Contract

by Pat Winslow

They came one night in February
from the quarry in the valley

with blocks of fog loaded on their carts.
The moon rose and the Bear ploughed the dark.

The ground was bright with blades of frost.
Each footprint they made was a black bite.

All night they carved elaborate shapes
to fit round trees and bushes on the slopes.

A hod of fog is a wondrous thing.
They beetled up ladders into silver scaffolding

to build walls that were windowless and high,
and soft turrets from which arrows or birds might fly.

When the last block was put in place they packed their gear,
took down their ladders and disappeared.

Only one thing remained – a spirit level made of ice
which soon melted. We marvelled at the edifice,

the fact you could walk straight through it,
how, like water, it could open and shut

behind you and leave pearls shivering on your skin and hair.
The conditions were perfect. We found our Brocken spectres

that morning, walking tall and equidistant on the rim,
each one a silent, faceless, stretch-limbed twin.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

With innovative education and commissioning programmes and a packed calendar of performances, readings and competitions, The Poetry Society champions poetry for all ages.

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