A series of poems by Penny Shutt, a kinship carer, who explores how it feels to come to terms with bringing up her brother’s child
I’m on the phone to my mum
stressing about part-time hours,
and how I’m going to cope
with my soon-to-be child
who comes on the phone,
breathes like Darth Vader
and murmurs two syllables
that closely approximate my name.
My brother arrives home from his appointment,
Ooh he’s got a little box for his Methadone
she says, as though he’s returned from school
with an Easter card decorated with crushed
egg shells or an orange
tied up in tartan ribbon and pierced
all over with cloves,
her optimism – bright
as a yellow painted egg box daffodil –
that it would ever occur to him
to protect his child
from what he does.
First it was the red Chopper –
a thirteenth birthday gift,
left rusting in the dew
of someone else’s garden,
and no matter how many times
mum nagged, you never found a reason
to go back for it.
Then it was the mixing decks
confiscated to dad’s attic,
as though there could be
And later, in your twenties,
it was the disused ambulance
left blocking the drive of some mate of a mate
who was waiting
for you to get your license sorted
and convert it.
But this time, it was your wide-eyed,
on a day when the Police turned up
with a social worker this time
after mounting threats from dealers
sick of waiting for you to repay them.
And now it’s his childhood left rusting in the grass,
a childhood you could be a part of
if we even knew where you were.
But here we all are,
phones switched on,