Many congratulations to our wonderful trainer, Helen Whitten, for winning the first prize in the poetry competition at the Winchester Writer’s Conference for her poem The Scaffolder, Is there no end to her talents?!
A steady man with steady feet,
a father to his apprentices,
he walks the soaring crane
like you or I cross Waterloo Bridge.
Surefooted on the narrow poles,
twenty years safe-pacing the scaffold slats,
he unclips his harness,
works his way past ropes and lunchboxes,
picks up his tools
ready to move the hoists,
boots clanging on the metal ramps,
automatic as changing gear
over a hundred mindless miles.
Thoughts breaking from his body,
what flicks through his brain,
chasing him blindly down a road of preoccupation –
a row with his wife,
a debt with the bank,
a pain in the chest?
One foot takes a step forward on the steel platform
into the void of his mind’s absence,
plunging him sixty feet down
from the gantry
through the gap he’s just created:
a flailing figure of muscle and tattoo,
helmet and dungarees
a streak of colour like paint that’s run,
arms windmilling helplessly,
a scream like a Catherine wheel
jetstreaming on the wind;
men rushing to the rails, hands out,
workers in the yard below stilled,
like statues rooted to the tarmac,
as he plummets, somersaults
and dives to his death:
a flattened thud onto concrete,
leaving just a question in the air.