Friday, 19 September 2008

Gregory Award Winners (4) - Emily Berry

The Yellow Hammer State

After we saw the bird man, I was gone.
They prised the big Coke from my hand
and all took sips at once; it made them laugh like crazy.
I had different types of ice cream in my mouth,
I can’t remember which but one had chunks in.
Part of the cone I was holding had been crushed by my thumb.
I knew if I moved or spoke a war would start
and I’d be held to blame so I said nothing.
If we’d lain down and all stayed quiet
it might have been okay, but I still had the big hand
on my other hand so I was always pointing at something
and that gave the game away.

Part of the problem was all the tiny yellow hammers
behind my face were tapping at my brain
and I didn’t want to nod or shake my head
in case they slipped. They had such tiny heads.
And the impact zone kept spreading
and there were pools of yellow over everything.
And they got into my mouth from inside out
and mixed up with the ice cream and dribbled down my chin,
and the others made a fuss and ran away.
I think they were afraid the bird man would snatch them up
and put the yellow hammers in them;
then they’d have to stay with me, and be the same as me,
in this knocked-out woke-up-nowhere place,
this yellow hammer state.

Emily Berry's poetry has been published in various magazines including The Rialto, Poetry London, Poetry Wales and Magma. Her pamphlet is due out from Tall Lighthouse in November.

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