Winner: Antonia Johnson, 'Once'

Winner: Antonia Johnson,


Antonia Johnson’s poem ‘Once’ is the recipient of a 2020 Newcastle Poetry Competition Young People’s Prize.




Once I carried a girl,

sitting sadly on my shoulders,

a trapped lamb crying for the sheep she’d lost.

Every night our bodies touched;

we flickered like candles on the lake.


Once I carried a girl,

lying softly in my arms,

starved by pestilence and sickness of the mind.

Every morning I held her hand,

making sure the travellers saw our flight.


Once I carried a girl,

who held tightly to my back;

I was stricken with grief with the load I had to bear.

Every mealtime we talked,

spilling every secret.


Now I’m carried by a girl

who lifts me up to heaven,

the shoulders that I always craved

but never knew I had.

She pulls me through.


Antonia Johnson, 16