WINNERS OF OUR TREE COMPETITION
1ST PLACE: EMILY ZOBEL MARSHALL
Emily is of French-Caribbean and British heritage and grew up in the mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales. She is a Reader in Postcolonial Literature at Leeds Beckett University. Her research specialisms are the cultures and literatures of the African Diaspora and she is widely published in these fields. She develops her creative work alongside her academic writing and has had poems published in the Peepal Tree Press anthology Weighted Words (2021), Magma (‘The Loss’, Issue 75, 2019), Smoke Magazine (Issue 67, 2020), The Caribbean Writer (Vol 34, 2020, Vol 35, 2021 & Vol 36, 2021) and Stand (Vol. 19, No. 4). She also consults several arts, historical and educational organisations on decolonial methodologies and approaches.
Emily is Co-Chair of the David Oluwale Memorial Association, a charity committed to fighting racism and homelessness, and a Creative Associate of the arts-based youth charity The Geraldine Connor Foundation. She has lived in Leeds for over two decades, has two children and, when she’s not working, can often be found on her allotment or running in the mud in Meanwood woods.
The Shape of Trees
Let me climb the crag, see the
land open wide, hear the hum of
distant motorcycles, caws of
worm-hunting gulls far from sandy shores
and feel memories of lava flow, interrupted
There on rocks I will knot words
to landscape, bring side by side images of
open palms of emerald fields held by
blackened fingers of winter beeches
But the distant shape of trees resists
description for each twig belongs only to itself
and not to me; I cannot name the
fleeting dance of light beneath the clouds
the final flame of amber leaves
crowning the sycamores
Not in words but rhythm, then;
the rise and swell of breath
the thud of footsteps hitting frosted mud
only in this syncopated heartbeat lies the
thing that ties me to the shape of trees
RUNNER-UP: BRANDON MCQUADE
Brandon McQuade is the founding editor of Duck Head Journal. His debut chapbook, Bleeding Heart was published by Kelsay Books (2021) and is available on Amazon. His debut collection, Mango Seed, is forthcoming with Scurfpea Publishing. He lives in Gillette, Wyoming with his wife, Jacqlyn and their children.
She climbs the pine tree in search of her mother.
Her fingers sticky with sap. If she doesn’t find her
when she reaches the top, perhaps her mother
will spot her up there. Perhaps not. I was her age
when I got lost in the woods behind my house.
I walked in circles, the same three birds soaring
over the same trees. My child brain couldn’t understand
how every path had grown green with wild ferns.
I cut them down with a stick and found my way home.
She fell from a broken branch and broke her elbow.
If she hadn’t fallen, she’d be climbing still.
Using the sticky branches to build a bridge to the sky.
Searching for the gateless gate that holds her mother
in the endless blue that connects us all.