Category Archives: Daily

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.

Melanie Banim – Knocking Shop

The first time I hear ‘knocking shop’, there is a wall
between us. My body bends origami-tight in the space
under the stairs. It is Friday, reserved for his visits

and fish; the skirting, the lino, the window ledges blanch
with Mum’s bleach. I finger a day-old biscuit in my blazer
pocket. Oh for Chrissakes, Dave. A cymbal-strike:

the rings of her left hand on the worktop. Tell me
they weren’t underage. I think, Knock: how my sister and I were
taught to ask for the paper – if the man isn’t there,

tap twice on the glass counter, smile without teeth,
take the right change; the Headmaster’s sign, knock to enter;
Mum’s quick knuckles at the doctor’s office.

I survive the stillness of Sundays in late August; ride
in shorts, one foot a rudder, on the trolley through aisles
at B&Q: Help me choose, love – a brass one for the front door?

Our street was still seven days more before he came; I crane
against the window in the box room at the front, to see.
A Lurcher-cross from two doors down, stretched in protest

from Mrs Var’s hand, hunts at a trot, grumbles into the hollow
of a packet of crisps. Next door’s baby crows until it is fed.
That’s why you didn’t turn up for weeks? I hear it first;

his rumble comes in throttled waves across the tarmac. I press
my nose into his leather jacket, slung across the stairs, bat-wing black.
She scrapes her acrylic nails in the steel basin, collects bacon rind,

slivers of onion; her other hand fills the kettle. I don’t know what
you expect me to tell the girls. I unfurl, from under-stairs,
cakey heat between the rolls under my shirt, rehearse a term

in one breath’s worth. Start with the As. I’ve been chosen
to play one of three witches, loads of lines. He snorts
a laugh that charms two grey snakes from his nose:

You’ll pick that up easy. His eyes on her hand, suspended
half of the way. He has to stand to reach the cup.
You’ll learn that from your Mother. How are your

others, she asks; his eldest, we’ve heard, is freshly-slit
from nine pounds seven ounces of her own. He laughs: You know
I never liked kids. Lights off, later, my sister meets me

on the tiles – two prawns in white nighties, slick with sweat.
Mum is there at once to hold back our long, black hair. With
ragged breath, we kneel at the bowl and curse his name.


‘Knocking Shop’ by Melanie Banim won first prize 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.

Sentinel Champions Stories #3 – Akinlabi Peter

Akinlabi Peter

Akinlabi Peter won the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition with “Moving” in October 2009 judged by Bobby Parker. Since then, he has gone on to publish A Pagan Place, issued as part of the APBF Chapbook Box Set: Eight New-Generation African Poets in 2015 published by Akashic Books, and a collection of poems, Iconography, which was long-listed for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2017. He was also the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Monday Writer July 20, 2020.

Bobby wrote in his adjudication report: “I immediately chose Moving as a possible winner, before going over it again and again, and again, and coming to the conclusion that it ticked pretty much all the boxes for me. It had to be first. The opening lines took me by the hand and by the end of the poem I had been somewhere and come back better for it. There is a command of line and craft in Moving that doesn’t get in the way, that doesn’t drown out the sound of a heart beating.”

FIRST PRIZE WINNER – SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY
POETRY COMPETITION (OCTOBER 2009)

MOVING
Kumasi, 1967
by AKINLABI PETER

1

i would not know you if not for the lights
riding forth through the retaining walls
of the ungovernable river…

we had forded water to the rail lines
reciting the lapidary psalms of the baptists
but arrived home to a startled flight of voices

a frightful moment later,
lights of devotion falling again
through the ashen pulse of the wind, i dog-eared
the intimation on the dark bulrushes of Kumasi

and that is how i was ferried home
incomplete, cultivating another time
while the dissonant meaning lets in
a daunting disbelief

a child again, i fold a geography of loss
into your eyes of secret, into the grieving fondness
of that district that women called Lagostown

2

so you will go through to Kumasi again
you will remember how the days passed
between the terraces and the grotto
you will recall the seduction of a quiet surrender

maybe you will remember too
a child’s unfettered heart; an atrocious gift
wrapped in the riddle of a sunset; arms outstretched
unto the sky of an abandoned house
ah, the sudden dampness of departure

now you perfect your gift of double faith-
hope it still retains its reins of cool closures-
admitting your weightless, interminable narrative
a bridge, you say, to a transmissible life

when you arrive in Kumasi,
you might cleanse the memory of sun dusts
searching the direction of clouds towards Ababu
or you might come undone
reading the signs of recent dawns on a tall building

the river will be unfamiliar- if you find it-
but the lights will still be the same
playing the meanings with things in memory
you can look for the fey swell of the bulrushes
and count the degrees of pain in the architecture of loss


Sentinel Champions Stories

#1 – Miles Salter  #2 – Mandy Pannett

Current Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition