Category Archives: Sentinel Champions – Prizewinning writing

The winning, highly commended, commended and specially mentioned poems in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition series.

The old man in my bed

ANDY EYCOTT

Taken by surprise
as I lay in bed, dozing,
I touch an old man’s head,
fingers falling through reeds
into a pond. I wipe away the sleep.

His cheek soft, wrinkles to my touch
a fruit past its prime,
slow deflating balloon.

How did this old man come to be
in my bed?
His failing crop
alien to my touch;
decimated rain forest.

I remember now
seeing the old man
in the living room mirror
caught him in a sideways glance.

He didn’t register as anyone I knew,
yet here he was
in my bed.
My fingers run lightly

over his parched brow tense,
line after line his forehead reveals
his furrowed history.

I rub gentle circles around his temples.
I feel relief,

he coughs, I choke,

he yawns, my ears pop,

he hooks his spectacles into place,
my world comes into focus,

then I realise,
my God!

**********
‘The old man in my bed’ by Andy Eycott received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2020) judged by Terry Jones.
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SLQ Daily 08 August 2020

Read of the day

David Lohrey

DAVID LOHREY
Bombardier to Captain

First the sky, black or blue, depending on the time.
By day, Memphis blazes, 100 degrees in the shade;
the sky, robin blue. At night, there are lightning bugs galore
and stars, eerie, dazzling and quiet, as from the Mississippi,
slaves once dragged bales across cobblestones.

The bridge was too far so we stayed where we were, stuck
forever between the Overton Zoo and Beale. We played
in the yard with daggers. We burned each other’s toes.
The bull dog Prime Minister humped our legs
while the Afghans ran in circles chasing dust. We ate potato
chips at midnight and cried in our sleep: let’s go back tomorrow.

Color of my eyes? Mother’s? It was morning glories we beheld,
not roses. Roses come in black, not in blue. I did see father
many times but I don’t remember his eyes. White and black
photographs show us in our pajamas with little bows
and arrows scrawled across the tops.
Bugles and drums decorated our blue bottoms.

How large the Pippin loomed over the police academy.
German shepherds lunged at padded arms as men in black
set fires with smoke as thick as cotton candy. The elevators
at the Century Building were open by day. We ran in
hoping for a ride to the top of the world;
secretaries chased us out into the bright sun.
.
The horizon was on the other side of the river, but nobody dared
cross that bridge. We were stay-at-home types, little chickens.
Everything was thought the best. I believed the art gallery in
Overton Park was bigger and better than the Met.
Second rate was not only good enough.
“Who the hell do you think you are?”

The Pink Palace was dad’s fortress of art and power, in costumes
he designed himself: a clown, some whimsy, a melancholic
smile, despair, or an oriental stare; in make-up and girdles,
a sword, a pistol, a tunic or robe, tights and sandals,
shaped from plastic or leather. Father directed:
Give them some cleavage. Show ‘em your tits.

Not wanting to stay—please no longer. Not one more hour, not
another minute, not five measly seconds more. Mother couldn’t
get out of town fast enough. Father could ruin a dinner over
a lousy buck. Kool-Aid or pudding? Take one or the other.
The grand master had little to give;
it was all show but no tell. I’ll have another martini.

This December, the trees in our yard will come down,
felled by an ice storm. It feels right that the old man is dead.
His heart was black and blue. He beat himself up and beat me,
too. When I think of Memphis I think of death, but not
from long ago. Brother Martin was first to go
and then Vernon Presley’s loving son.

Dad’s gone now, thank goodness; there’s only mother.
The dogwoods stand silent, as her eyes watch, laughing.
There’s much comfort knowing how much she loves the bluff.
All the memories are gone. The Old Forest full of heavy growth
lures us back but all we find is an empty lot,
a ghost town called invention.

**********

David Lohrey’s plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania. His poetry can be found in Otoliths (AUS), Tuck Magazine (UK), Terror House (Hungary), Sentinel Literary Quarterly (UK) and the Cardiff Review (Wales). His fiction can be read online at Dodging the Rain, Storgy Magazine, and Literally Stories. David’s collection of poetry,  Machiavelli’s Backyard, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers (Houston, 2017). He lives in Tokyo. ‘Bombardier to Captain’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018) judged by Dominic James. 
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Vishishta

VISHISHTA
Family Problems

My brother is killing again
He left the house
early this morning
a red gleam
in his eye
his gun swinging
from his hip
No one could stop him.

My four AM darkness
is full of children
screaming
Their mothers frantic
to protect them
My brother
lifting his gun
again.

We huddle sadly
in the house
the neighbors murmur
against us
no flowers grow
this Spring
no drugs to blunt
the pain
our dreams replaced
by cash
our fine house haunted.

**********
‘Family Problems’ by Vishishta was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, May 2003. Native to Southern California, Vishishta grew up in the tumultuous and inspiring 60s. Starting out writing short stories, she published short surreal epiphanies in underground newspapers. Gradually, she changed to writing songs, then poems, then back to short stories and now back to poems. She is the author of Eros – a collection of poems.
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Competition

Roger Elkin

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Closing date: 31 October 2020
You are invited to enter your poem or suite of poems in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2020) to be judged by Roger Elkin. This competition is for original, previously unpublished poems in English language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long.
Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 x 3 (Commendation), 3 x SLQ magazine paperback (Special Mentions.)
Entry Fees: £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4, £14/5, £16/7, £22/10
For full terms and conditions, to enter online or by post, the address is
https://sentinelquarterly.com/competitions/poetry
Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Prizing poetry…since July 2009

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Mark Totterdell – Jersey Tiger Moth

It’s settled boldly on our white front door,
an emblem with the look of something rare;
soft arrowhead in simple origami,
printed with patterns not quite black and white,
but pale vanilla, bitter chocolate,
in glam rock zigzags, like a dazzle ship.
It flies, and its flashed underskirts are gaudy,
the perfect shade of tinned tomato soup.

Their home is Portugal, is Greece, is Russia.
There’s one famed island valley where they swarm.
It’s only natural for them to come
into this land of high unnatural pressure.
Their shtick is to bear whole wide bright worlds here,
enrich thin lives, exoticise plain air.

‘Jersey Tiger Moth’ by Mark Totterdell received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry competition (August 2019) judged by Roger Elkin.