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  • Writer's pictureBurnt Breakfast

Dreaming of Pie | Jenny Mitchell

There must be something wrong with her.

All she cares about is food

ever since her husband died

the children moved so far away

and she’s begun to dream about the war –

her only childhood cramped in damp, grey rooms

shaking with the fear of bombs.

Sun rose every day on big bright craters

giant footprints in the middle of the road.

By the time she runs to school

the little bowl of This will have to do

has turned into an ache. She cannot concentrate

on sums or learn new words

confused by led and lead, breath and breathe.

Lunchtime sees her sitting down with hope

to face a slice of spam or grease-clogged rissole.

Pudding dribbles off her spoon. At least it’s sweet.

When she asks for more, the dinner lady frowns.

How can a greedy girl like you help the war effort?

The child does not respond but dreams of apple pie –

the largest slice the world has ever known.

After school, she dawdles near the only shop

that still sells party food.

Can they be real?

A row of pink iced fancies, flowers

in a perfect dream.

At home, her mother points towards a plate.

That’s all the butcher had. Don’t leave a bite.

The scrag end is so tough it hurts to chew.

Eyes stare back from old potatoes.

Late at night, sirens scream their warning

as the girl lies down to sleep. She holds her belly

with one hand as if a warming bowl, something good to eat.

Tries to dream about her father – sailor-prince

who went to war before she knew his face –

a blur in all the photographs. Easier to dream of cake.

Now, she wakes up heavy with night weight.

Makes a breakfast large enough for two.

Walks to one of countless shops that sell iced fancies

disappointed by the darker pink, the not so flower-like.

She buys the largest apple pie the world has ever known.

Feels an ache for something more.


Jenny Mitchell is joint winner of the Geoff Stevens’ Memorial Poetry Prize 2019, winner of the Fosseway Poetry Competition 2020 and a Best of the Net nominee. 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 2019 (Poetry Wales).

You can find more of her work:

Her book: Jenny Mitchell - Indigo Dreams

Twitter: @jennymitchellgo

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