In the Back Yard at Winslow Way
(for my sister)
Granny’s sitting in a deck chair. She’s fanning herself with an old Spanish fan. She has a straw hat on and her cheeks are bright red. Behind her is a low whitewashed wall, beyond that the long garden full of fruit trees and vegetables.
‘Good God, it’s ‘ot.’ She says.
She is wearing a pale pink dress with red polka dots on and a red and white pinafore. Her freckled bare legs stretch out in front of her. Her feet in sandals, her big toe nails painted red. I’m playing with my doll Suzie who has real hair and pink lips, she is dressed in a bright orange dress, one that my Mum made.
My sister is lying flat on the ground. The tortoise is on her stomach, it’s been there for ages. Yogi, our dog is sitting next to her and is staring at the tortoise. Usually Bev is running around pretending to be a cowboy or playing with her cars, it seems strange for her to be so still.
Granny slurps her tea and says,
‘Ooh, that’s a kushtie cup of mesci, nice and strong.’
I ask her why she drinks tea on such a hot day.
‘It cools the blood down, they all drink it in India.’
I look back at the tortoise. He hasn’t moved at all. My sister looks as if she’s in a trance as does the dog. I think I might give Suzie a bath, to cool her down. I ask Granny if I can use a bowl, she tells me there’s one in the bathroom but I know that this is the one she uses to soak her feet so I tell her that I’ll wash Suzie in the sink instead.
Soon after I’ve finished washing Suzie my Mum returns from her shopping trip. She tells my sister to get up off the ground but Bev say’s that she’s waiting for the tortoise to reach her neck. I burst out laughing and one by one we all laugh. Suddenly the tortoise falls off of Bev’s chest, he lands upside down with his stubby short legs sticking up in the air. Granny jumps up, says,
‘Oh, my lord, you’ve mullered it, quick pick it up.’
Bev picks the tortoise up, runs down the garden to the long grass. She bends down. We wait and then a few moments later she calls out.
‘It’s alright everybody, he’s still alive.’
I go inside, calm Suzie down and put her to bed. She’s had enough excitement for one day.
Kushti – very good; Mesci – tea; Mullered – killed
This piece appears in Raine’s pamphlet Apple Water – Povel Panni (Hedgehog Press, 2018).
Raine Geoghegan, MA, lives in West Sussex. She has been published both online and in print with Romany Routes Journal; Fair Acre Press; Words for the Wild; Ink Pantry; Fly on the Wall and others. Her poems have been featured in a documentary film, Stories from the Hop Yards. She read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018.
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