Melanie Banim – An Absent Father

I waited as long as I could. Your tomatoes
grew telephone box red; plump baubles
I couldn’t eat. Christmas was terrible

without you. Sat in Sainsbury’s
car park, I leave a message
just to hear your voice, thick

with each pack of twenty
Superkings Black. At horror films,
you shield my eyes from blood,

a ghoulish face in a mirror.
With my hair scraped back
we are twin towns: Porthmadog

and Wicklow. A lump as dark
as liquorice on your x ray, held up
to the light like my school paintings.

You count my freckles in Welsh.
On weekends, you wedge the
bedroom door ajar as I sleep.

Rain batters my sandcastle.
Your eyes lit by the arcade and a wink
as you fumble in your pocket for

change to feed the 2p machine.
Last time we played, you lost.
We buried you in case there is a God.

An Absent Father by Melanie Banim was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2021) judged by Rachel Long.

Melanie grew up in Liverpool, granddaughter of a sprawling Irish Catholic family held together by steely matriarchs. She first published her poetry at university to spotlight the experience of her disabled sister, who is an enduring source of awe. Melanie has dedicated her career to improving education and mental health support for those facing barriers. In 2019, her poetry was selected for the City of Light exhibition. Melanie’s confidence to share her writing grew after a revelatory week of workshops guided by poets, Kate Clanchy and Luke Wright. In her work, she unpicks silences, magnifies marginalised voices, and explores how families can do – and undo – harm.

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