2019 winner

The door slides shut and I gaze, eyes wide,
At the wire-crossed window, far too high.

Stay there, said Granny, this will all be over soon.
Hold onto Teddy, you won't feel alone.
So I stand on tip-toes, brave boy, chin up
Pulling on Teddy's ear for luck
If I learn my times table, Teddy I say
My mummy will come home today

One times one is one.
I remember the last time Mum
Was home, smelling of lip gloss and cookie dough.
Watch the oven, she said. Don't lick the bowl.
But I wore her out, and she lay.
While the shadows slid back into day,
On the sofa still, white face, grey hair.
Just too tired for the stairs.

Two times one used to be two.
Fingers on the ledge, peeking through.
Grown-ups huddled together, pulling out tubes.
Seagull squawking of seaside shoes
Are they getting her ready? Packing her case?
I hope she remembers the card I made.
'Get Well Soon' in red felt-tip
Heart made of glitter, I love you. Kiss, kiss.

Footsteps, running now. Gowns like wings.
Crowding the passage, door closing again.
Granny crying. 'Please God, do something'.
Does she mean me? Did I look too soon? I
s it because I licked the spoon?
Will Granny be mad? My tummy in knots
Oh no! Teddy's ear is coming off.

Two times two. Is it six or four?
I stand, my face pressed to the door.
Then out they file, I'm pushed aside.
The door left open, far too wide.
Too bright, too silent. And I can see her there
Lying still, white face, white hair.
And next to the bed, forgotten on the ground
My Get Well card, Glitter face down.

The Corridor

by Fin Perry

Copyright © 2019 Betjeman Poetry Prize   |  All Rights Reserved

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