October 2020 Competition Winner

Two Minutes 

Ruth Taaffe


Notes fired crack against our ears,

fill the air like smoke after gunshot

blooming over a field.


He leads our collective stumbling

with his solo, shuffles us into respect

at the ricochet of his tune.


The young bugler lowers his instrument,

approaching the climax of his task.

We are silent already needing this axis

this poppy-black pistil to focus our woes.

In our separate myths of war assembled

we feel something like peace rise to heat,

breathe as he breathes and cold brass gleams

silver in November air. Against the warmth

of each jacketed heart, an explosion

of red reports how a bullet

will spread blood across the chest

in a tiny flowering of hurt.


We hear him collect his tone with his tongue.

Lips purse against the promise

of notes then plucked air trembles out


gold, rings like glass and blood flows back

into the rip between us and the button-worsted drab

lying across the breasts of the dead.