Winner: Alice Parsons,
Alice Parsons’s poem ‘Cutlery’ is the recipient of a 2020 Newcastle Poetry Competition Young People’s Prize.
I am not lazy
When you ask me to go and get the knives and forks for dinner,
And I act reluctant.
My sigh and slumped shoulders are not a sign of teenage apathy. Don’t ‘kid’ yourself.
Truthfully, I am unwilling because
My hands betray me.
I see the dull silver cutlery –
Obedient in lines
And my hands grab four pairs
Of knives and forks. Habitually.
At the start, I was not able to bring myself to put back the useless pair
So the knife and fork would sit (hidden) on my lap while I ate, secretive and lifeless.
The warmth of my body could not thaw the ice of the cold cutlery. At least they have each other, I would muse.
I cannot be happy for them.
Now, it’s just another reflex:
To drop the fourth pair back into the drawer
And hear the clang echoing in the space where you no longer stand.
Although I don’t have to think about it anymore, I still feel it.
No level of rehearsal leaves my emotions silent.
So every dinner time I am confronted by the visceral sensation of my blood draining,
And heart gasping: as if I have missed a step on those stairs.
(that your feet no longer tread.)
Worst of all, sometimes I bitterly remember
That each of these knives and forks has a pair,
And when I approach the table,
At either house –
My mother and father no longer have their pair.
No longer complete, in my eyes, at least. The pair of cutlery on my lap and in my hands agree. I cannot look away.
This is one of those small, small, moments each day where I am reminded of the sorrow buried within me.
It is trying to breathe. Stop suffocating it.
The cutlery tells me – my sorrow is begging to be heard.
So do not call me lazy – I am trying to breathe.
Alice Parsons, 17