Archway Bridge by Emily Stokes

10th October 1997 at 01:00
This is a long, but brilliant poem - or rather, a brilliant poem because it knows just what to do with its length. All the repetitions create a haunting, frightened, slightly crazed effect - this isn't true of all repetition, incidentally, just really well-turned, fresh phrases like Emily's, which also build up tension, which is released in a genuinely surprising ending. This kind of control is unusual in any poet. Emily Stokes, aged 11, receives Two's Company by Jackie Kay (Puffin).

Submitted by Mala Perera, Home Tuition Teacher of Islington Council, London, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teachers' notes. For Poetry Society events, ring 0171 240 2133.

ARCHWAY BRIDGE

On the bridge that's so high that you mustn't look down

Black posts stand at four corners

And people say dolphins wrap round them,

But I know they're serpents.

Everyone knows why it's creepy,

But they just won't say because . . .

On the bridge that's so high that you mustn't look down

Black posts stand at four corners

And I say that serpents wrap round them

And they stare at you like the sea horses that guard the bridge.

Everyone knows why it's creepy,

But they just won't say because . . .

On the bridge that's so high that you mustn't look down

Black posts stand at four corners

And I say that serpents wrap round them

And they watch you like the sea horse guards.

And in the hot summer, when you feel good,

And the scales of a serpent shine and a cloud comes over,

Everyone knows why it's creepy,

But they just won't say because . . .

On the bridge that's so high that you mustn't look down,

And the serpents wrap round the four black posts,

And they watch you like the sea horse guards,

And on a bright day it darkens

When you see the shine on the serpents' scales,

And there's a rumbling below like the sea,

Everyone knows why it's creepy,

But they just won't say because . . .

On the bridge that's so high that you mustn't look down,

And the serpents warp round the four black posts,

And they watch you like the sea horse guards,

And on a bright day it darkens

When you see the shine on the serpents' scales,

And there's a rumbling like the sea,

And some people are caught by the spell and jump into the water,

But it's a motorway, and the rumbling's the lorries,

And then it's gone.

EMILY STOKES

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