Louis MacNeice Creative Writing Prize: Winning Poem

Luke Bateman Elk

Gallop, they said.
All of my days
Spent in four-trot
Catching up. Left
Behind, forgot
Lost, aways last
To feed and warm
My hind exposed
To cold barbs, frost.
Ma’s shrug, sharp
All I felt, craved
She never caved
Trotted on till
I grew. Star crowns
Like splayed hands
Either side to clash
And crash, I knew
Others’ embrace -
Bone chip - always
Lost the race. Does
Turned aside their eyes
But I got by
We fought for graze
Not for honour. That
long lost. Still I
Chased and gave all
I could, turn aside
They might but I’d
Make good on shrieks
Croaked at water creeks.
Ha. Bravado betrays
Men heard. Gave me
Away. Others
Ran. I gave chase
Ma’s howl returned.

I lost that race.

I knew earth then
For a time long
And hid. Unveiled
Ages later
Marvel of ages slid
By. Grasses gone
With all I knew
Wilted into
Past’s sheer blue.
I am the last,
Remnant. Account,
I sing from high
Museum mount
Always too slow
Always left out.
Last Elk then.
Last Elk now.

In the 1970s, a prehistoric elk was dug up in Poulton-Le-Fylde, Lancashire. Metal barbs found in its bones indicate the presence of humans on the Fylde Coast over 13,000 years ago. Another victory for human history. No one stops to ask what the elk’s story might be.