The winning poem, Roscommon Poets’ Prize, Strokestown Poetry Festival 2020

tunnel lane

Walking the Back Road, After

The way the green lane opens for me,

stretches full length, often cranky,

but with arthritic fingered branches

beckoning, dry-tufted centre-parting  

dividing the poor pock-marked tarmac

into uneven halves, my long absences

unremarked, no Where have you been?


even though I missed last summer’s

sweetness, small scarlet strawberries

squashed alongside tractor-flattened

frogs, by morning all gone, no memory

of being magicked off into eternity

by carrion eaters in the dark velvet

hours below soft, star-stacked skies.


Then later, the way I see the fox left

on the hill vetch, that kill stretch,

where she lies low, grass verge hunched,

teeth bared, eyes missing, tyre tracks

if you look, though I can’t, even when

winds ruffle autumn-fired fur to flick

the black-tipped brush back into life,


as if movement’s all there is to living

and I think of you, unexpectedly quiet,

still, shape-shifted into chair-slumped

awkward, as though you’ve been knitted

on wrong size needles, dropped stitch

baggy, your violent vixen colours faded

from gilded ginger to silver grey, not


caring for appearances, vanity dropped

at the Care Home door, bagged up for

charity, those smart tailored suits,

fitted outfits made with your skilled

hands – someone else wears them now,

while I keep on walking the back road,

my eyes salted, trying not to unravel.

Louise G Cole