Content Warning: child sexual abuse
I stand against the bulge between his legs,
my teacher’s hand pinned to my back.
The sitting room grows dark. Mum’s gone
to make some tea, proud to have a guest.
Captured in the grey fog of his breath, I smile
because he tells me smile. Cigarettes are ghosts
on his large tongue, poking out to lick thin lips
again. If I try to speak – Don’t make a sound.
He whispers You might have a good report.
The door seems small, too far away.
Or shall I say you slept through class?
He moves a hand in circles on my bum.
His breath comes even louder than before.
Mum bellows from the kitchen Will Bourbon
biscuits do? A stain shows on the carpet.
He orders Rub my thigh. My head goes back.
The ceiling’s stained as well. I moan for help.
Stop that at once he says. There’s dandruff
on his suit, lapels that shine with dirt, a crash
in the next room. Mum shouts My fault!
It lasted for nine months – him coming
back to offer free tuition – before I told
the truth. She slapped my face, looked down,
then quietly said Don’t mention this again.
Jenny Mitchell won the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize for a single poem, and the Poetry Book Awards for her second collection, Map of a Plantation, which is on the syllabus at Manchester Metropolitan University. The prize-winning debut collection, Her Lost Language, is One of 44 Poetry Books for 2019 (Poetry Wales), and her latest collection, Resurrection of a Black Man, contains three prize-winning poems and is featured on the US podcast Poetry Unbound. She’s won numerous competitions, is widely-published and has performed at the Houses of Parliament.