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Poetry by Joshua Turton

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Poetry by Joshua Turton

This year Joshua won the prestigious ‘York Centre for Writing’ award for his poem ‘The Grass Above the Graves’. Poems were judged by seven academics from York St John’s University.

The Grass above the Graves

Back when nothing was to be done about

anything, the grass grew above the graves.

Yellow-green blades leaning into the wind

bending against pressure: the forces of

change that forged us. Veiling stone... quartz... marble...

Each bearing the Atlas’ burden of a name.

Generations shrouded within a brief return

to true status quo.

The between of life and death

disintegrates – wind

rippling through the glorious, unkempt

boarder like a current; coursing presence

where its absence is on display.

Mesmerizing: that is all I can say

of the time the grass outgrew the graves and swayed.

Bus ride somewhere

Rivulets of rain meander down the bus window,

converging at the bottom.

They slice through the thin mist steaming away the outside world, 

displaying the roads

and buildings

and cars

half a moment at a time. 

Out there, everything is not so uncomfortably kept; 

not pushed apart by a silent agreement 

to ignore gravity, 

and everything that draws one person to another.

I lean back,

bearing the shudders and jolts - 

the bus driving in breathless gasps. 

I sit second-row to the back, 

and there’s only one person behind, 

younger I believe. The rest are old, 

and bear the weight of journey more than I.

Progressing through the rain, there is a consensus of silence, and an oath 

to look forward or sideways, 

whichever carries you away from someone else.

I turn my head every now and again,

my eyes flitting around the bus.

People hide under the noses of their hats, 

and the brims of their hoods and I feel guilty. 

As if I am breaking a vow

made simply by stepping aboard. 

Most of us wear some variety of blue, black or grey 

in frighteningly similar ways. 

I can’t help but notice there is so little setting us apart,

and so much that divides us. 

One person has a pair of drumsticks, 

sticking out of his upper coat pocket - 

the one close to his chest. 

They bobble to the rhythm of the bus, 

dancing ever so slightly.

Another is wearing a splash of pink, 

her beanie bright despite the bleak ambiance

and shadows cast across the aisle.

 Hopefully, it doesn’t distract the driver,

 and we don’t swerve away from the route laid out.

I don’t know about anyone else,

but when I ride the bus I often forget

where I’m going till I get


There’s a moment of realisation as the picture develops

the familiar side walk,

the friendly drain grates 

and the unalienable atmosphere of recognisability, 

appearing from the black.

Something’s different today, however,

a congregation of people, waving banners and holding messages to the sky, 

chanting something

merging together

to set themselves apart, 

a found purpose, 

fighting for what they are owed.

Maybe I am empty; 

I want something to fight for. 

Something to be, and something to be for. 

But the allure of the concrete path feels inescapable 

and too often I awake from yesterday, rather than opening my eyes today.

When I get off the bus nothing changes. 

I am either replaced or not replaced, and 

everywhere is still uncontrollably claustrophobic and devoid all at once. 

The world out here was never better. 

Everyone scurrying from place to place, splashing 

through the puddles and tearing through the rain. 

Ignoring that it does not sift us all equally. 

Some of us drenched on street corners, 

others cosy in the flimsy things we wrap ourselves in. 

Communicating in a game of charades as we flirt with our own feet

or bury our greedy gait in our phones. 

Living for less than the moment.

Living for the moment in between moments that never comes.

The closest thing being the journey. An unfalteringly ambiguous journey

that opens up into another 

when the current deigns to appear to cease. 

A book whose pages unfurl into novels, 

and letters that demand another word.

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