The poems of Pushcart Prize-nominated poet Nigel Kent have appeared in a wide range of publications and been shortlisted in national poetry competitions. His collection, Saudade, was published in 2019 by The Hedgehog Poetry Press, following the success of his poetry conversations, Thinking you Home and A Hostile Environment, written in collaboration with Sarah Thomson.
We watch her fill the glass
up to its brim with juice
and carry it like the sacrament,
across the busy breakfast room,
tongue pressed between her lips,
to where her mum will sit.
Her father shovels sugar
into a cup of cooling tea
to sweeten the bitterness
that has spiked their holiday;
the image of her with their friend
stirring, stirring, stirring.
The mother doesn’t notice
what her child’s prepared;
she’s looking for her partner,
who, seeing her arrive, walks off,
wading through a churning sea, chin deep,
the sand sinking beneath his leaden feet.
‘DADDY’S GOING, MUMMY!’
her daughter screams
and makes us silent extras
in this breakfast scene;
wishing we had lines to shape
a new direction to this plot.
His partner grabs the siren child
fighting sandaled feet
that kick out vainly at her fears,
and smash the love-filled glass instead,
which haemorrhages unchecked
across the pristine linen,
and though in seconds a waitress
removes the sodden cloth
and mops up the sticky dregs
dripping from the table top,
she cannot rid the room of the stain
the family has left behind.
When she lost the little girl she’d longed for,
they did not try again; ‘Too old!’ he’d said.
She did not lie silently in a closed-curtain room;
she did not stare mutely into the unused cot.
Her grief was a howling, bared-teeth grief;
a sinew-ripping grief; a snapping, snarling grief
that locked its jaws around her throat
and swiped at both his outstretched hands.
He learned in time to tip-toe round her,
flattening himself against the nursery walls,
but he never could ignore the quiet sound
of gnawing, as it devoured her hour by hour.
Man of words
You were so different
from your older brother.
I’d toss words to you,
cajoling you to catch them
and throw them back.
But unlike him,
you would not play;
you’d let them fall
and watch them
bounce across the floor.
Silence was your mouthpiece;
but you were simply biding time,
storing the words
you'd let drop,
and snapping them together
with muffled clicks,
to make a labyrinth
of plastic streets
and towering houses,
where you would hide,
count to ten
and challenge me to find you,
though I never could,
not even when I cheated.
You made me wait,
testing patience till it failed.
Then you’d emerge
borrowed from friends,
concealing the face
I’ve never learned to read.