The Winner of the Aurora Prize for Writing 2019 – for Poetry.


Polari was a secret language used by gay men and queer people in Britain before the 1960s to avoid persecution.

Oyster – by Toby Campion

And I shut my sheesh screech.
He said cut that cackle fag.
My tongue was deaners    he did a nob.

With her moey sewn closed
I brought him a hungry chavvy.
He said show me how loving me reefs.

He said order and I ordered.
He said vagary and I vagaried.
Charpering to be needed

I dhobied in ice for weeks
buvare. When it breaks
his fever met with my cody.

It’s ben
To say it’s bona. In your lettie
the omee   at the same time

wants to tip your brandy and battyfang you.
I savvy how it goes when an omee
with vera after every lamor

dhobies out his moey.
I’d vada   him   to the sink after
straight tight oyster

who charpered to not palaver me.
Been palavaed by flatties.
I’ve been an omee’s screech’s secret too.

I too have been the secret on a man’s lips.
Spoken by someone who wished
they didn’t need to speak me.

Clenched jaw. Straight
to the sink after. I’d watch him
wash his mouth out

with gin after each kiss.
I know how it is to feel desired
and despised at the same time

by the same person   in the same bed
to tell yourself this is normal
this is fine

to answer his fever with your body
something drinkable when it breaks.
I have bathed in ice for weeks

waiting to be necessary.
He said go and I went.
He said come and I came.

He said show me how it feels to love me.
I brought him a hungry child
who’d sewn her own mouth shut.

He rattled his tin   my tongue became coins.
He said shut your mouth faggot
and I shut my faggot mouth.