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February 27, 2012

By Michael Ray


We dropped waxed paper circles,
turned tight the lids,
wrote dates on crimson-stained labels.
In her deckchair-striped dress
and green-rimmed glasses,
she stood on tip-toe
placed them on marble pantry shelves.

Around my bed-time her kitchen cuckoo
would twang open the doors,
leer lopsidedly on his bent spring,
and wheeze nine times.
I balanced once on a stool,
pried open the doors just before the hour,
jammed a matchstick between his beak;      
stayed up late for several days.

I remember pink candlewick bedspreads,
the walk home from the estuary,
boots oozing mud.
How she turned an ankle
playing football  in stilettoes.
Sunday tea, cake and lace, perched
on the front room’s uncomfortable seats.
His bayonet from the First World War,
rusting at the back of a bedside drawer.

One visit, the jars in her pantry
had grown green fur,
my parents never mentioned why
on the day she went to hospital
plums began to fall.

©  Michael Ray

View pictures of the awards ceremony.