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.
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.
Whenever my mother spoke French
green birds flew into the kitchen.
They circled the formica table — so fast
that green became a whining sound.
The birds they sang my mother young,
her shiny ankles asking to be seen.
They sang her slender arms, holding open spaces
then leaving them, drunk on each new idiom.
They sang my mother lace.
And when the birds left, as they always did,
I watched her knot the apron ties
behind her back,
like a well-worn magic trick.
Non-Native by G.E. Stevens was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) judged by Terry Jones.