Man of Few Words – A Poem by Jenny Mitchell

Man of Few Words

Homeless as a child, grandfather rarely speaks
about one meal, plate piled high, given on a step.

The owner of the house complained even as he watched
grandfather bolt the food, eating with both hands.

All these ragged children trample through my fields,
A crop has been destroyed. Trees no longer thrive.

Isn’t it a shame? They should be locked up.
Grandfather’s voice grows loud. He begins to gag.

Isn’t it a shame? They should be locked up,
men who give with one hand, take back with the next.

He spits the food into his plate, leans to stand back up.
God, it makes me lose my appetite. When he takes his seat,

I try to calm him down but the shaking starts.
He beat me on that day, when I asked for more.

His hand went to my neck, pulled until I choked.
I was only slight. A fist was used and then a stone.

He staggers as he turns, lifts up a lock of hair,
the scar shaped like a mouth. I want to ask him more,

but he shakes his head, stares into his plate.
I know grandfather well and he rarely speaks.

Jenny Mitchell is winner of the Poetry Book Awards 2021 for her second collection Map of a Plantation. It was chosen as a ‘Literary Find’ in the Irish Independent and a Poetry Kit Book of the Month. She has won the Ware, Folklore and Aryamati Prizes, and a Bread and Roses Award, as well as several other competitions. A debut collection, Her Lost Language, was voted One of 44 Books of 2019 (Poetry Wales). She has just been made Artist in Association at Birkbeck, University of London. Twitter: @JennyMitchellGo

Banner Art: Steps in the giving land, A Visual poem (c) 2022 by Robert Frede Kenter. Twitter: @frede_kenter

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