Lock by Joshua Judson

Third Prize in the Aurora Prize Prize for Writing 2019 – Poetry category

Winner of the East Midlands Regional Prize 

The first time I kissed a man

there was stubble sharp

as vinegar.


When we gutted grandma’s house

I found a can of soup from 1980.


The first time I had my hair cut

by electric razor, the hairdresser

had to convince me it was safe,

held the buzzing animal to my palm.

See, she said, it doesn’t hurt.


His voice was rasping in my ear.


The first time I kissed a man,

he smelled of work even though there was none.


The hairdresser was right. The razor

doesn’t hurt. But it throbs,

which is a kind of hurt.


When you hold something

that has more history than your hand – 

a book, a hairbrush, a can of soup –

it is a weight that is usually only felt

in the body.


Most days the sky is donkey grey

and it throbs, which is a kind of hurt.


They’ve long since gutted the house of its wiring.

They’ve long since robbed grandma’s hair of its copper.


After her funeral, the other side of the family came.

Took what they could, left.


The weight of that can of soup stayed in my hand

long after it kissed the bottom of the skip.


The first time I kissed a man, vinegar.

The second time, salt. He rasped in my ear.


Bennet St at two in the morning is the quietest place on earth.

Sometimes I walk for hours and find nothing.