Then there was the man
who drove the pale blue sports coupé,
who’d pull in to the kerb
on that debilitating hill,
where it was almost more
than I could bear to carry you –
hungry for closer contact
on the way to child care as you were,
resisting the impending separation
at the all-day crèche – and just as arms
and lungs approached an agonising
pitch of stress, he’d pull in to the kerb:
tweed cap, a beard, a smile, très debonair.
Without turning a hair, although
we must have looked incongruous,
he’d drop us at the crèche
and then glide off towards that private
school for boys, an English master
in the guise of new-age errant knight.
We never learned each other’s names.
The stranger’s unexpected kindness,
my relief at being spared from carrying
your weight uphill, remained our sole
exchange, at once ephemeral, indelible:
moments when the burden of lone
parenthood was shared.
Our winning poem
Jena says: “At the time recalled in this poem, I was working and studying and my daughter was in childcare so regrettably, we didn’t have much time together. I’d been very ill with eclampsia, in a coma for five days, while my daughter, born two months prematurely, also survived by what seemed like a miracle. So while we lived precariously, there was no time or energy to contemplate that fact. We survived. The gleaming sports car from another world, with its kindly driver, was like an apparition from a contemporary fairytale.”