25 July 2020


Dr Elizabeth Davies

What nanny knew

I paid dearly for my passage back
from crimson sunset and human stench,
letting the milk stored for my stillborn child,
pour like tears into my lady’s son.
And all the while pretending not to see
how like her lover the poor mite looked.

Her husband, though did not ignore for long,
and snatched her from that dappled garden
of wide Indian leaves and sweating backs.
Through that long voyage, I hid the boy
far from the waves of my lady’s pleas,
as Sir dragged her back into his bed.

We docked in a tall cold Chelsea house
where my lady grew pale and large with child,
and mists crept up around her from the river.
For this son, her breasts worked their grief,
while I washed, bleached and ironed in
a sweeter pattern to our embroidered lives.

Sir sought to win her back by travel,
taking us to dine on warm landscapes,
and meet dawn on Italian lakes.
There in Venetian palaces I found my kind,
hanging scented linen from beams in tall rooms,
to air like standards in the dancing light.

Back in London, my lady went out to party,
while Sir settled for pleasure elsewhere.
I learnt then that though the rich can spend,
they need the poor to make a home.
I stayed on to banish dust and dead flowers,
and warm the nursery for bedtime tales.

Though gin soon slipped out my lady’s mind,
Sir still needs my silence.
After the last tears, he bought me this flat,
my well-earned privacy, he said.
Now my only task before his grown sons visit,
is to hide the faded image of my Indian prince.

‘What nanny knew’ by Elizabeth Davies was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2019) judged by Roger Elkin.


Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2020)
Closing date: 31 July 2020
Judge: Terry Jones
This competition is for original, previously unpublished poems in English language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long. Poems posted on members-only non-public groups for review/critique as part of the creative process are not deemed to have been previously published. Poets of all ages, gender or nationality living in any part of the world are eligible to enter.

Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 x (Commendation), 3 x SLQ Paperback (Special Mentions)

Fees £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4, £14/5, £16/7, £22/10)

Results: 31 August, 2020

Publication: Prize-winning, commended and specially mentioned poems will receive first publication in Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine (online and print).

Enter competition now >>


Nnorom Azuonye

Something Rotten in the State of Poetry?

Oh that this too too stuffy art could chill, relax and take itself less seriously.
Or that the gods of the craft had not set standards too high in the first place.
God, God, how uncompromising, aloof and obscure some poems can be
Shame on them, shame, the hardest things the mind creates with least reward;
Things more mundane and meaningless are honoured better, and swifter,
And it has come to this, but a few years since the birth of the Internet
Even before anyone knew how safe or wide the world wide web could truly get
Anyone who had a heart, fingers, a computer plagued, by frustrations or joys
Of modern life began to write this thing. Why poems? Why poems? Even Poems!
A joke-bomb with a little self-respect could have exploded with less speed,
In just a few years, even before they learned to tell a haiku from a sonnet,
Rhythm from rhyme, assonance from consonance or simile from strophe,
They wrote, all lines and words uncared for, doing it their way, feeling good.
In a few years, even before they had read Elliot, Poe, Yeats, Okigbo or Angelou,
They wrote, oh most exuberant rush, to attend a palace dinner in ragged clothes.
It is not and will come to no good in our lifetime purists pompously say,
but hang me if you will, for I must disagree and hear what every voice must say.

‘Something Rotten in the State of Poetry?’ by Nnorom Azuonye is is excerpted from the Editorial, Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine January 2003.

SLQ DAILY | Contact: slqdaily@sentinelquarterly.com