Under 16s English Winners
Ice Cores & Tree Rings
Artfully extracted from Antarctic wastelands,
crystalline cylinders of ice reveal
our planet’s frozen history in glass-smooth geometry,
tiny pockets of atmospheric elements,
climate snapshots, trapped in layered time.
Here is the oxygen our parents breathed,
and our parents’ parents,
and every forebear stretching back
through families, tribes, cultures and continents,
glacial ages, shifting plates, to the genesis air
in the African lungs of human evolution, leaving
chemical signatures that dance across millennial graphs,
molecules of nitrogen and CO2, of bone-dry seasons,
monsoons and storms, the sulphurous traces of Krakatoa,
Popocatepetl and Vesuvius,
carbon-black soot from industrial ages,
radioactivity from nuclear progression and aggression.
I think of ice cores and the alternating rings
of virgin summer snowfalls and dirty winter banding
tainted with polar dust from weathered mountain ranges,
while I trace my thoughtful finger round
concentric circles on the wise and ancient heart
of a felled Welsh Oak: exposed, its secret diary
opens up in cross-section, patiently waiting to be read.
I haven’t finished counting yet, but here must be
at least three hundred tree years set
in sequences of pale, spring growth
and darker, denser, high-dry summer months,
drought revealed in stifled cycles,
rings crowded closely in tight bound wheels.
And barely formed, the spectral trace
of Eighteen-Hundred and Sixteen
when hollow-bellied families became a wave of refugees,
fleeing crop-failed famine and withering leaves:
The Year Without A Summer.
There’s more to find in tree rings than the chapters of an oak,
more secrets deep in ice-cores than the molecules on graphs,
more to our future
than the patterns
of the past.
Reasons to Save the World
Minsmere RSPB reserve, Suffolk – Early morning in February
A deer, a roe deer, the first I’ve ever seen, nestling inbetween the bushes,
a majestic, magical marsh harrier soaring and swooping down, catching prey,
a smew, a widgeon, a shoveller, or was it just a mallard?
Lazy cormorant stretching his wings,
Grandpa rustling through his bird book to see if it really was one,
cries of fear and fright as Granny spots deer footprints on the muddy gravel,
natures choir of birds calling and singing,
tough old wood on the window hatch as I enter the different hides,
cold metal as I peer through my Binoculars,
smooth silver as I try to capture my memories,
Safe cage of happiness which is my mother’s hand,
bitter sting of disappointment: no otters today,
juicy hot beans and flaky sausage rolls as I walk towards canopy hide hoping to see all the beautiful creatures in Minsmere,
Pitter patter, pitter patter, rain on my cheek as we carry on
wet but warm inside.
We have our coats and hats on.
Strolling along the white river –
snow is like fingers on a piano.
It looks like a closed down shop
in the light of the lunar day.
Our feet in boots – plodding and crushing
and shrinking – are silent.
We want to stand with trees
for a million years.
One day, they might build shops
where the river is.
These pointed spears of snow-grass
could be shot over ice-river lands
to become boats never to return.
Birds and fish, under ice,
might find wild, imaginary places
where only they can go.
And might call those places
‘Dubbledaab’, for a sound of home.
For the sound of the song
of the chewing water-ice.
In this snow white, river light
we stampede the river – drop enormous rocks
to release running water until it’s dark.
With soaking trousers
and solid, ice-bell fingers
we can’t even feel.
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