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  • Writer's pictureKayleigh Willis

THE WINNERS PT 4: 1st Prize - 'I Don't Think About Them' by Lauren Oertel

First prize was awarded to emerging writer, Lauren Oertel for her poem: 'I Don't Think About Them'. We are thrilled that this poem was chosen as the overall winner as it sums up everything MONO. is about; getting under the skin of ordinary life even when it's uncomfortable, addressing societal taboos by being vulnerable and honest through writing and finding the hints of humour as you peel the layers back. Vivid, disturbing and moving in equal measure, this is a bold and accomplished poem by a name to watch out for...congratulations Lauren!

'I Don’t Think About Them'

I don’t think about the kids I gave up

except when my disease flares,

the disease I developed from the extreme stress

of the short time I was a parent

Except every time another friend of mine has a baby

and I’m terrified about the daily horrors

they’re gleefully signing up for,

I don’t know how to separate my experience

from what they envision parenting to be

My mind goes back to scrubbing the reeking accidents

out of the carpet from the youngest,

patching the holes in the walls

from the furniture thrown by the oldest,

the excruciating hours of screaming tantrums

until their throats were too raw to speak

of the gaping wounds of their histories,

what they’ve seen and what they had no choice

to do for survival

I don’t think about the kids I gave up

except when I see the swirls of pink Sharpie marker

that never came out

Except when I smell hot Cheetos and my stomach turns,

thinking of that big fight with the red powder-stained fingers

smearing the white wall

while I cleaned up the snack-speckled puke off the floor

Except when I hear a small child scream

and my heart races

while I scan for an exit,

my flight instinct kicking in

Except when I think of their parents

in and out of prison,

gutted by their separation from their babies,

this family being just one example

of the collateral damage

of the war on drugs