for my grandfather
They came out on his death,
laid on a cooling board:
rough cedar plank with holes,
allowing blood and waste,
to drip through ragged clothes
onto a bed of ice.
Melting pink, it slowed the rot.
The morgue attendant thought
it must have been a breeze.
A dead man could not say I love
with cloth tied round his jaw.
Five sons insisted.
They did not want the lips to part,
believing in the old wives’ tale:
a ghost escapes from any hole.
Three daughters argued for a while,
agreed their father rarely talked,
preferring to wield canes.
How could he speak in death,
to be so sentimental?
He never mentioned love,
not even to his wife.
Must have been a breeze;
except the voice was heard again,
coming from the ruined face,
eyes so deep
they might have been pushed in
by angry thumbs.
Chin still proud,
which seemed a cheek:
the cloth was soiled.
His children hurried to the door
as it was said again:
faint as a breeze
Last Words by Jenny Mitchell received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) judged by Terry Jones.
The text depends on numerous details
here is the sky lined with vespers
but without supplying any account of what proceeds
the weight of the whole fades into the sea
green functions sacramentally but blue is illumined
readers sometimes wonder whether there is any historical reference
scholarship is work but the sea has a mood it does not share
in fact, the Incarnation is not clear that flowers open in spring
but, for example, nothing supports your chair and so you prepare for hours
some have tried to establish one answer, a window to a window
which probably means the guest room to a house
giving rise to a number of alternate versions
that on closer observation is fruit
tumbling from an open palm.
Incarnation by Claire Miranda Roberts received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) judged by Terry Jones.
You carry your daughter’s coffin yourself
in the two hands that held her,
resting with feathers of black hair
a pulsing fledgling on your skin.
Not even an arm’s span of white wood,
you place her on the table,
with the backdrop, her name ‘Chloe’ and a teddy picked out
in cream chrysanthemums, pink gerbera buttons.
This is it. The end of tubes and operations.
The end of the children’s hospital’s well-trained nurses;
other parents, some as young as you, still glide
between intensive care and home, like ghosts.
It never ends though, does it?
The memory of her small body in, and on, your body
united warm on warm.
No end to the care that needs more
than two hands to hold it;
that surges on sleepless nights,
when you are with your other children,
those of strangers,
at the supermarket checkout,
passing those hospital doors.
Care by Claire Williamson received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) judged by Terry Jones.