O, Great Northern Mall, you dwindling oracle of upstate New York, your colossal lot
of frost-heaved spaces so vacant I could cut straight through while blinking and keep my eyes
shut, I’ve come like the flies that give up the ghost at the papered fronts of your defunct stores,
through the food court where napkins, unused to touch, are packed too tight to be dispensed,
past the pimpled kid manning the register who stares at the buttons and wipes his palms.
If I press my eyes until checkers rise from the dark – that’s how the overheads glower
in home essentials as I roam through Sears, seeking assistance. I know you’re here.
For this window crank I brought, you show me a muted wall of TVs where Jeff Goldblum
picks his way through the splintered remains of a dinosaur crate. There must be fifty
of him, hunching over mud to inspect the three-toed prints. I almost didn’t
come in here at all, driving the opposite of victory laps, and waiting as I hoped
for the red to leave my eyes, but my urgency smacked of your nothingness. I did it again –
I screamed at the woman I love, and in front of our one-year-old, who covered his ears.
(From the website) Eric Berlin’s winning poem explores a fleeting private moment: with a sleep-deprived dad making a dash to the shops on a mundane errand, a flash of anger, and the shame that follows. The setting is a mall in upstate New York, but the emotions and the experience are universally human.
Judge Sarah Howe described ‘Night Errand’ as “one of those poems that wouldn’t let you move on, but demanded a pause to dwell and recoup, followed by the compulsion to read it again. Its initial grip gave way to a sort of haunting”.
(Further news) Filmpoems of the winning poems have been commissioned in partnership with Alastair Cook and Filmpoem, and will be available to view on our website soon. The films will tour at festivals around the [UK] and beyond.