Each year, we select our three submissions for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem from those winning and shortlisted poems from our Pick of the Month series that remain eligible. This year our choices are ‘Vanishing Mother‘ by Jenny Mitchell, Priya Subberwal’s ‘how to lose your mind at the end of the world (an instruction manual)’ and ‘The Anatomy of Boys‘ from Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan.
Reacquaint yourself with these fine poems below and do please keep your fingers firmly crossed for three wonderful poets.
Vanishing Mother by Jenny Mitchell
A jar of Pond’s cold cream glows
in amongst her female debris
on the dressing table; talc
sprinkled with a lipstick smear
across a comb. Tissues fluff out of a slit –
half-done magic trick
beneath a heart-shaped mirror,
picturing the mess made of her room:
a king-sized bed stacked high
with queen-sized blankets.
It is like her clothes – layers but too small;
skirt hitched at the back;
hinge of bulky knees.
The open jar displays her haste,
a shield of foil jabbed into snowy peaks,
in contrast to her shade – the lightest brown
for someone black;
called dundus growing up – Jamaican for albino:
a throwback to slave masters
troubling our family line.
I long for it, the cream,
to smooth her blemishes. In adverts on TV,
white women own the miracle of cheekbones
that never sag as they stand tall
to gaze into a pond,
reflecting back their pristine skin.
how to lose your mind at the end of the world (an instruction manual) by Priya Subberwal
step one: stare out the window for hours on end. pretend you’re making eye contact with someone.
step two: envision a post-apocalyptic future,
where you only eat canned beans,
talk to faces drawn on walls,
read the great american novels,
and finish all the bourbon.
feel alright with it. finish the bourbon.
draw a hole big enough for the sky to fit it.
let the sky fall in.
abandon the multi-step program,
abandon notions of time,
it is four four four in the morning
it is the first day of human existence
it is your birthday
it is the day the asteroid hits.
let the sky turn purple-
shout at the moon –
pound fists on glass –
sleep too often.
(do not go to sleep).
forget your first language,
the way it shaped your
pale blue world, stuttered through
rolled past you on subway ads.
find a new god —
the newscaster, the demagogue,
the martyr, the rebel,
build them a tower of cardboard boxes
and a paper crown.
notice where the sun is
when the room turns violet and drowsy.
notice where your body is
when it stops answering to
that noise of your name.
The Anatomy of Boys by Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan
Boys are cold birds
Boys are carrying broken wings
Boys are burning oceans
Boys are drizzling ashes
Boys are not the thorny rose
Boys are petals of hibiscus
Boys are rainbow
Boys are not cloaks for a deluge
Boys are glass prisms
Boys are bends stifling grief
Boys are untapped palm trees
Boys are cask for unharvested tears
Boys are cameras
Boys are libraries of cracks
Boys are dustbin
Boys are cavity for filthy blames
Boys are suns
Boys are shining in isolation without stars.