Poetry by Jenny Mitchell

Braiding

I place the comb against his scalp,

my son – a big man, legs spread

on the carpet. Red hibiscus makes

the council flat my lost Jamaican yard.

He nudges close, firm shoulders placed

between my legs like girls back home,

hair braided in the sun.

Points in pain towards his head.

I take more time to part the new-turned soil

as he begins: police again,

how hard their hands; the failure

to apologise that always ends this tale.

Beneath the words, I dream of fireflies,

their beat against the windowpanes

as if locked out

was not the same as free.

When canerow is complete, he nods,

stands up, strolls to the door.

I’m never sure of his return.


First published in The New European.

Jenny Mitchell is joint winner of the Geoff Stevens’ Memorial Poetry Prize 2019, and winner of the Fosseway Poetry Competition 2020. She’s been published in several magazines including The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House and Under the Radar. Her work has been broadcast on BBC2 and Radio 4.

A debut collection, Her Lost Language (Indigo Dreams Publishing) was selected as one of 44 Poetry Books of 2019 (Poetry Wales).

Photo by Daniel Zylbersztajn.