THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2004

 
Alex Smith
ST JEROME IN HIS STUDY
         after Antonello da Messina
 

In the beginning were the birds –
heir trajectories, loci,

circumnavigatory arcs
more celebration than message.

This is the Saint's open house,
his airy study, a metaphor

for the sky's welcome. Nature
is benign: the healed lion pads

its complaisant way
along the tiled arcades,

a soft spring breathes
upon the ochre walls.

But the Saint, in cardinal red,
is stern, his gaze piercing through

the manuscript as he contemplates
the Vulgate's iron word.

He searches for a ringing truth, as true
as the golden rim of the peacock's bowl.

But in the beginning were the birds
and they were without words,

their screeching cries were without form
as they swerved and looped with tangential grace.

Return to Adjudicators Report