Competition Four Shortlisted: Swash/Backswash by

The deep, gentle swash of the kind, brave and loving things you have done has somehow left you gasping here. Stranded, alone again in the midst of this great city. This murderous city that only and always seeks to hurt. Its sprawling machinery assaulting your human senses in every living moment. Its noise, its fumes and its relentless, relentless drive. 

It will drown you if it can, even in its dryness, so you work to stay afloat and you keep it up. You push past your human exhaustion, past all hope of rest. Your sleep is only ever fitful, broken by sirens or the sharp elbows of strangers. 

It seeps in, the city. Its concrete vistas leaving you cold, even as you swelter. It screeches into your ears and makes you afraid. It crushes you into public spaces, your body an inconvenience. 

You become hard, like the city. Your muscles set into a kind of armour, the constant clenching of your jaw eroding your teeth. The effort of these futile protections another exhaustion. 

The swash of your gentleness is still in you but it’s buried beneath your new machinery. Your kindness has become a sort of desperation. With no peace, you have forgotten love. You are brave still, the backswash may yet sweep you away again.


Matthew has finally started writing after a long, long, years long wait – it feels like the right time to start.


Photo credit – Matthew Norton


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3 thoughts on “Competition Four Shortlisted: Swash/Backswash”

  1. Brutally evocative, yet done with so much care. The text hit me hard in a way I hadn’t expected it to.

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