Winner: Alice Parsons, 'Cutlery'

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