A helicopter quarters the night sky,
sets off alarms in my mind.
Downstairs, doors forget to lock
and there’s an iron-filing taste
of blood and spit in my mouth.
A sudden sweat drenches my back.

I pull the bedclothes over my face,
the alarm bells turn up the volume
and I hear the tolling of a cathedral voice:
‘Declutter or die. Declutter or die.’
I go down into the dark,
the stairs twist in a lop-sided grin.

A mahogany sideboard blocks my way.
It holds my birth and marriage certificates,
exam certificates, an outdated testimonial.
Will St Peter mind it’s thirty years out of date?
Along the landing rows of bookcases.
‘I give them all up. I give them all up.’

In the morning, I see emergency
in petals of poppies unfolding
fire-engine red and privet leaves
turning ambulance yellow, and in workmen
spreading straw in the street to dull
traffic noise outside the house of the dying.

Poetry Prize 2017 Third Place

Michael Henry has had four collections published by Enitharmon Press and one collection by Five Seasons Press. In 2011 he won the Hippocrates Open Poetry Prize. He has been published in many magazines. He had a Hawthornden fellowship in 1989.

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