This competition raises money for Nourish Food Bank. The winning poem, by public vote, has £50 sent to Nourish in the poet’s name. Voting is by “likes” and ends 12th July 2018.
The night he came home complaining of the flu
she helped him to bed with enough whiskey to fell an ox,
knowing she had just one chance to make this work.
As he snored she packed the children’s bags,
no more than each could carry and enough space left
for a love-worn elephant, a frayed and floppy rabbit.
At five she brought him tea, more whiskey, paracetamol.
She made him comfortable, waited till he drifted off again.
Then she woke each child in turn, eldest first,
shushing their sleepy bodies into home-knit sweaters,
thick socks, stout shoes, best overcoats; sitting them
in shocked silence as she briskly dressed the next.
The baby she carried to the car, his nappy soiled, afraid
his angry cries might wake the dead, or heavy sleeping.
Brake off, she rolled the car downhill, towards the town,
starting the engine only when she saw the blue-black port,
the island ferry stolid, roped tight against its mooring.
At half-past six she stood on deck, watched the dock recede:
ahead a dullache day of wind-rough sea, of rail and road,
of hope the refuge that she’d read about would take them in.
A decade later, packing boxes at the local foodbank, she sees
another family, like hers back then with less than nothing.
Remembers that first meal: donated tins of tuna, sweetcorn,
plum tomatoes, with mashed potato mixed with forks;
her hungry children slurping tea from gaudy mugs.
Knows that nothing will ever taste as sweet as freedom
and the generosity of nameless friends she’ll never meet.