Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

Her Perfect Son

by Rachel Irven

She presented him to the outside world
Scrubbed and tidy,
Her perfect son.
She put him away to bed
Before his father came home,
Tidied away all evidence.
Wiped his nose when it ran
With a cruel handkerchief,
Sighed when he cried
At the wrong time,
Was inconvenienced by his laughter.
Later she joined the PTA
Helped start a Scout Group.
He grew quieter and quieter,
School reports said
‘Needs to be more outgoing.’
So she worked harder.
Her coffee mornings were celebrated
And her cakes took first prize,
She beat them thoroughly,
Yet there were no crumbs
Left on her spotless floor.
He grew quieter and quieter,
Taller, taller,
Pale as if not often in the sun.
One day he left.
She noticed
When she no longer tripped over his school bag,
The milk lasted longer in the fridge,
And no-one was eating her cakes.
She was put-out that
He had not left a forwarding address,
‘Children can be so heartless.’
The neighbours could not understand it.
Everyone said she was such a good mother.

Added: 28.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


Lovely rhythm to this as well as a gentle evocation of what it is to be a good parent. Things the outside world does not register. Loved it!


What a well presented, and well observed, psychological study. Leaves you with a distincly 'pitying' feeling for its characters.


Haunting mismatch between different realities of Mother and Son. Liked the quieter and quieter then disappearance.


beautiful poem xxx


Loved 'cruel handkerchief' Poignant description of a child moving on - captured in this lovely poem.