‘The Tower’ by Isobel Buckingham (First Place – Poetry)

This poem was awarded first place in the Poetry section of our 2014 Inaugural Writing Competition.

* * *

William’s head grew heavier the higher he climbed.

He used to find, on Earth, and almost close

To other minds, not quite unlike his own,

His heart for every chime would find a rhyme.

They led him gowned, and fitted with a frown.

When first the morning tolls half-thrilled his soul,

William in his pilgrim haze did vow

To write a passing ballad for the town.

‘Bad luck,’ they’d said, ‘to reach the top before your time.’

But William knew (he hadn’t bought the books)

That words weren’t sold to those who’d sooner cite

Than fall. So banking on his pen he climbed.

William sang a swift old lover for the rain,

And summoned miner boys from unmarked graves

To dance among the river stars; his verse

Released the dawn from cracks in spangled panes.

Then came the thing that William won’t explain.

Then poetry became a pain – he’d often take

A line from ‘Sonnet 29’; a rhyme

Or three from ‘Annabel Lee’… and did prophetic see

The fall of Blake for prose’s sake.

William bartered half his head away

And didn’t mind – he said he’d found a trade

In rousing drowsy tongues. Thus William scaled

The piers, and made a mask of still decay.

One day they held a ball in William’s name.

He heard a practiced voice, as from the grave,

Asking whence he’d plucked his theme. He beamed:

‘Somewhere in your Cambridge Guide to Crane.’

See how the sky makes smog of William’s mind.

See how he wanes before the shallow moon.

The highest spire will denounce his weary crime

When William’s heart declines, declines, declines.

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