sitting cross-legged on the veranda couch,
I try to mirror the patience of your voice
when threading the needle for the fifth time,
wanting to sew your speech into linen
and have it rest in my dress pocket.
naively, I swaddle myself in the temporary,
slipped like a bookmark between your belly laugh
and your scaly, tingling fingers that used to
find their purpose in embroidery.
if I memorise your careful instructions,
will my running stitch still look like yours?
it’s a necessary choice: pretending not to see
your thinning chestnut-coloured hair,
your unstable steps and loss of appetite.
the weeks blend like messy watercolour:
in the window reflection, I still fail
to look myself straight in the eye.
vocal chords clenched, not a sound
before the conductor’s cue: like choristers
we unlock our lips and burst into ‘little peony’,
chanting folk songs in gentle canon.
the evening we sang in harmony by the log fire,
you were the first to make me love my low voice.
resting my elbows on the pine wood table,
I sink my eyes into the source of warmth:
the water may already have boiled,
but the steam from the teacup is rising still,
its patterns delicate and quietly inviting,
if only visible in the hazy light.
I pause over breakfast to hate myself
for ever believing in fair, probably owing
the sunbeams something, maybe flowers.
I go back to walking the tightrope between now
and after, between dancing on family camping trips
and leaving the dinner plate untouched.
I wake back up to knot the end of a thread:
we sit and trace the yellow floral pattern
as if it were a maze in a children’s book,
exchanging funny stories about our weeks
and breathing as much jasmine scent as we can
before the tea gets cold.█
Words by Gerda Krivaite. Art by Anna Du Toit