by | November 15, 2021

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