2016 Poetry Competition Runner-Up


B&Q Blues by Stephen Williams


She said,

“Pick a blue, something light

That goes with the blind but not too bright.

Something morning, something cool,

Something hotel swimming pool.

Something simple, something plain,

Like your shirt but not the same.

That colour we looked at once, you know,

In Homes and Gardens years ago.

A touch of aquamarine, no more –

A bit more chic than her’s next door.

Bluish blue – look, it’s time I was gone.

Anything really, you choose one.”


So here I am, in B&Q

Staring at a million types of blue:

Snorkeling Trip, December Solstice,

Blue Bolero – who knows what that is?

Windswept Clouds, Parrot Flight,

Cool Box, Journey into Night,

Coastal Waters, Easy Breeze –

How much are they paid to come up with these?

Frosty Snowcap, Dover Shore,

Summer Rain, Ocean Floor,

Arctic Sunrise, Fairy Cup,

God’s Toothpaste – no, I made that up.

Midnight Magic, Moroccan Sky,

Seize the Day, Flying High.

I’m on a roll now, try and stop me.

More shades of blue than types of coffee.

Enough to put you in a trance.

Paint the bathroom? There’s no chance.


So empty-handed I drove home

Praying that she wouldn’t phone

To check on progress, colour, sheen.

A quick update, know what I mean?

I staggered in and made a brew

And surveyed the scene from on the loo.

To me, our bathroom looked alright

Why the change? What’s wrong with white?


All afternoon the floor I’m pacing,

Cold sweats while I’m watching racing.

How would it go? What would she say

About my unproductive day?


And then at six: the drive, her car.

My hand flew to my jugular

As she flew up to check the room

And descended stoney-faced too soon.

Her piercing eyes said it all.

(I feared I’d end up on the wall.)


“Darling, there were just too many.

I froze, I panicked and didn’t choose any.”


She brushed me off with just one stare

And left me standing lonely there.

My colour drained; I started itching

As she summoned me into the kitchen.

By then, my legs were quite unstable

And spread before me on the table

Rows and rows of colour charts.

“This is where your nightmare starts,”

She said without a hint of fun.

“By 3 a.m. we’ll have the one.”


So ahead a night of paint fatigue.

No feet up, crisps and Champions League.

I feigned interest but she could tell

I wasn’t feeling very well.

But then beneath the kitchen light

Bizarrely, no blue card in sight.

She chirped, when asked what did it mean:

“I’ve changed my mind. We’re having green.”