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Senior Creative Writing Competition winner: Libby Witheford-Smith

This year we had two winners of the Senior Creative Writing Competition, Libby Witheford-Smith (Year 12) and Lucy Poole (Year 13).

Libby’s piece was described by  judge Bryce Galloway, writer and Senior Lecturer at Massey School of Art, as “Hard to grasp any concise meaning, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. Poetically evokes the sense of very present world, but one with an anciet history. Full of colourful pairings: “The church sings sour…” “…amuse the horizon.” I had fun reciting this in the voice of Don Van Vliet from Captain Beefheart.”

Read Libby’s piece, “Father, vague and undiscerning” below.

A hysteria, courted. Two sisters made of rock huddle closer on the edge of sight. Below them, the church sings out sour with a bell too old, too rusted for the mountainside, the sheet-white snow, new blood. This is no ordinarily small hour – the church is breathing.

Sensations unfamiliar land themselves on hewn skylights. Now is a passing through of shaded spirits, the sparrowhawk their guide. Head beckoned, wings abridged, it calls for sirens – the half woman type, biting melody. Memory stirs once, twice, rests behind dirt-spotted eyelids.

On nights where each inch of lung becomes gracefully sealed by the jaunting of jasmine and rough oak, the two of us would stand together and amuse the horizon. He spoke in a cherry wood tenor, a green language of flowers. As our low breaths of talk followed, a blue haze would rise, mercifully, the lazy valley underneath tempting jungle. Invoking some god in familiar senses he would pause, lose a layer of himself in a dimension of the updraft, give himself away: vacantly, unlawfully, transparently a father.

Two sisters made of rock once tracked easy on our eyes. He made mythology uneasily ours, made stars grovel in a way most silver as mirth folded him inward. A sprite, the village would hum. One of them damned folk for sure and no laughs – river twisting through his veins instead of God’s traipsing redness.

A blue haze rises over an illusion of jungle now, hoarseness traced around outcrops and harsh stanzas in a stranger’s bass. Distantly, a sparrowhawk shrieks; great biblical cry with a throat parted heavy for the morning.

“Have a little faith,” he’d say. “It’s the only thing they can’t take from you, the only thing they can’t break – they just wring it into something new. Something else. Something different.” His words had spun twice above the mountainside, a shaded spirit at its loom.

A sparrowhawk calls, and a casket (handmade, lily-white) scrapes aside the doorframe, encompasses what little sky there is. Twice more the church sings sour, pretending melody – remembering how they left soot-empty fingertips trailing among ashes, left blue spots on his moth-ridden shirt. I know, I know that their Christ had no place in that heart of his, in that unforgetting redness; he had told me, voice tinted with poppyseed, how his mother wept seven times the day he rose unto his own.

Two sisters made of rock observe the grey dawn through stained glass of martyrs, watch as a lone spirit makes a parade out of expiry and scrapes aside the doorframe.

“You got to have a little faith,” he’d say, turning to the twin mountains, turning from the narrow walls of communion, the expansion of breath unheard. “Got to be quiet enough to let others have a little of theirs, too.”

From the pew, I listen. There is a humming and an aching and I believe him, and you believe him, and you believe him.