A Hard Time To Cut The Cloth – competition entry













Cutting cloth, but not enough
Watch the pay freeze,
Childhood squeezed
Morsels trickle into lips
as the tap slows to a drip
Life ebbs away with the drops
Stops. Paradise on pause
Driven by your cause
to revive, stay strong, strive
for better than the rest
Next generation blessed
with things you ill afford
may they be insured
against hunger of wanting
So you pick up, run the drill
sprinting to stand still
Then slip slide down
Creased with sorry frown
Around the helter skelter
Fun of the fair? Not there
Just dizziness and winding
down, try to save, sit tight
sometimes cry at night
Cold bath today (hot water’s gone)
Then off again into the fray
Push on up the ladder
Trample some, to raise a rung
then stung by another blow
down you go, back to the start
A daily dose, prescription highs
to get you by, while unravelling
Work tirelessly with heart
attack. Break your back, numb
So much unsaid, no one notices
Eviction signs, phone disconnected
Lose your trajectory, dejected
For a while anyway, but then
somewhere between famine
and feast, your eyes on the balance
you go back, cut the cloth
with sharpened blade, no rust
Why? Resigned. Because you must


The poem featured here was originally written as part of my 30/30/30 writing challenge and was submitted for the Poetic Republic Poetry Prize which announced its shortlist today (sadly I didn’t feature in the final 12). I have decided to link it to dVerse Poets Open Link Night tonight instead and would be grateful for any feedback left below. My thoughts on the Poetic Republic competition will be put up on the blog later.

32 responses to “A Hard Time To Cut The Cloth – competition entry

  1. Vanessa! You’re hitting way too close to home on this one for me in regards to my comfort level. I just went deeper and deeper trying to hold on, until finally, not thru courage mind you, I had to come to terms with letting go. I think you’ve got some fantastic word play in this potent pen. The rhymes and near rhymes make this a frantic and fierce read…and because of my personal observations, my blood pressure is rising! Just fantastic…I’d love to see the 12 that got picked…I’m thinking this one should have been short-listed!

  2. whew…nice flow in this…a very quick pace…as much is life you know….and we work and work…and where does it get us…but tot hat moment you vividly portray in teh cutting of the cloth…really good stuff here…hey keep writing your name will show up on those lists eventually…smiles…

  3. somewhere between famine
    and feast….not easy to find the right balance.. i much like the crazy flow in this vanessa..suits the topic well

  4. No nonsense here, just straight truth and hard emotions…things that often don’t win prizes, as they make many uncomfortable. I’ve read some contest winners, enough to know I’m not the sort that will ever win one. ;_) I liked this very much, and I think its an excellent example of what poetry is for–telling the true tale of one’s times with grace and insight.

    • Thank you, I like to think so. Fortunately the competitions only featured as part of the specific challenge I set myself so now that it is over I don’t have to enter any more or sit biting my nails to nothing in anxiety at being judged! It’s not fun… But reading your kind comments is, thanks x

  5. This is all too true of life isn’t it. Sometimes we seem to take so many knocks that we wonder why we bother getting back up again and yet, if it’s really that bad, it can only get better (we hope)
    This is a no holds barred look at the reality of life as most of us know it. Keep on keeping on, one day you’ll win the prize.

  6. This poem made me uncomfortable and now I feel a little guilty that I’m not using this time looking for a job…very cool. Seriously, I have a little twinge in my tummy. I enjoy writing that transports me, even if the journey makes me a little anxious. I’ve been reading other posts on you site, you are a very talented writer!

    • Thank you Heidi, I’m really glad you think so. And you are the second person I have made feel uncomfortable tonight.., and oddly I am kind of pleased with that! Ha ha, not because I want you all to feel bad, but because I am just glad you felt something. Lovely to see you here again!

  7. the tension in this is marvelous, and i can so relate… being the starving artist has its perks, but it’s also hard sometimes… i like to think, at least a little, that the suffering makes us stronger, and better poets 🙂

  8. Excellent piece. I love how I was totally thinking Helter Skelter as the piece progressed, and then there appeared the title. Really a great pace and flow here. Really nicely done. Thanks

  9. Well written Vanessa, the emotion of the situation and struggle really comes through, and I life the style you have chosen.

    I also entered the Poetic Republic comp and just got saw the link to judge the final 12, will be interesting to see how they are.

    The poem I entered was: I am madly in love, and I don’t even know her name

    Keep your great poetry coming!

    • Thank you, just had a little look at your poem and left you a comment. I didn’t see yours during the judging process. It’s hard to know what makes a winner and what doesn’t as poetry is so subjective. I was pleased to see a couple of my favourites in there and a little underwhelmed at others. Looking forward to seeing the feedback in the next week or two! Thanks for coming to comment here.

  10. Great rhythm and rhyme, it sings itself and hits all the right beats. I grew up off and on in abject poverty and was certainly one who wanted to climb the ladder. I started working at 14, had two full time jobs at 16 (both minimum wage which was $3.80 at the time!). Keep at it, a large part of it is getting the timing right (judges who want what you’re offering, right poem, and a bit of magic, synchronicity, or whatever that something greater is that you believe in). Best of luck with your future endeavors and sorry for the delay (puppy finally passed out for a few minutes :)).

  11. Hey- so sorry it’s taken me so long to get here….this poem is about as topical as it gets …I like the way you’ve written it- with th economy of language but tight rhymes- because it gives it urgency, a relentlessness….which is exactly what being stuck in the cycle of this subject can feel like- just like being in a washing machine- rinse/repeat…for me those last lines just close this so well…it’s like saying ‘why are we trapped in this cycle?’ answer- because there is no other choice – tough shit. On an aside- enjoying catching up with your thoughts on writing competitions….I’m kind of torn….by this I mean…what is the purpose of a competition? Validation? Who is the validator? And what gives them the right to say what is good and what isn’t? Like any art- I have a serious problem with ‘art’ that is held in high regard because someone says so? Doesn’t sit right…but then on the flipside – would I want to win a competition? The answer of course is yes….I like having my ego rubbed and if someone wants to say my work is good then I’m certainly not going to stop them….so I guess I am the ultimate hypocrite….do I enter competitions? No….would I …maybe…is this helpful at all to the points you were making? Absolutely not…

    • Ha ha, that’s funny, well as always I enjoyed the debate so helpful or not it’s fine with me! Yes, its a tricky question and for me it is totally about validation but then it is soooo abitrary how do you nail it with just one poem. For example, I chose this topic because I felt it might provide something that everybody could relate to because many people are feeling the pinch and therefore if it is relative it might prove popular. That said it is miserable and grimy and many people enjoy poetry for the escapism so it was a gamble. I have written other poems that I am prouder of but I felt were to generic for competition… and so the merry go round continues. Will I enter more? Not at up to £7 a go I wouldn’t, and I hate the waiting for results and the crushing blow to your confidence that not winning brings… Now you have me rambling too….. zzzzzzzzzz

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