Carla Scarano D’Antonio lives in Surrey with her family. She obtained her Degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing with Merit at Lancaster University in October 2012. She self-published a poetry pamphlet, A Winding Road, in 2011. She published her work on various anthologies and magazines and is currently working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems. She writes in English as a second language. Her blog: http://carlascarano.blogspot.com/ Her website: http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/ She is a reviewer for Write Out Loud, you can find her reviews here: https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=85771 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=86100 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=88038 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=88593 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=89863 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=93453 https://www.writeoutloud.net/public/blogentry.php?blogentryid=98663
In touch with my daughter in Tokyo I would like to have you near me to touch you now to be sure we are part of the same bond of friendship and care – a family. But you are far away – busy busy, engaged with better chances, confrontation and confusion, hard work, swift changes. Photos on the kitchen shelves beam, heart-warming smile in a Howl’s-moving-castle mauve t-shirt, your favourite movie, and Italian red pepper earrings on the V&A background. When I feel sentimental, ache ticks spreading under the ribs; I send you a smile with hearts instead of eyes clapping hands a dancing lady and a hug a pumpkin for Halloween or a halo for your name day. The impersonal networking warms me up, though infertile, reminds me of the importance of imperfection in our infernal autonomy. Ants One summer, after digging deep in the rear garden to pave it, ants climbed up our French window poking into the living room. Did we turn their lives upside down? At first they proceeded in scattered grouping then ordered queues. We sealed the French window with silicon, washed the floor with bleach, sprayed vinegar and water, added essential oils, lemon juice, baking soda, as prescribed. They came back every night, every day, a relentless army of black things, silent invaders, reclaiming our space. They reached the kitchen in due time, found their way to the shelves and cupboards, biscuit boxes, sugar jar, flour bags; the tiniest food remains, crumbs or juicy drops attracted hundreds. Growing in confidence they settled under the floor boards. We gave up, bought a bottle of ant killer powder - fast and effective lasting up to three months - sprinkled it round their paths. They disappeared in a day, of course, their insignificant bodies dissolving under our feet. Good Friday I was surprised to see you at church on Good Friday, the day of betrayal and killing, when we kiss the naked body on the cross and cry for all our losses. You were there with your deaf mother, I was there with mine and her elderly friends. We quickly caught up fifteen years, my move to England, the new job, my son’s wedding, graduations, my father’s death and my mum living happily. You were just the same, unmarried, helping old relatives organizing their lives and yours, travelling alone mostly, your sister pulling out. Everything looked under control, neat words ordering a life. What the world throws at me she loses the world in her belly her thighs are fractions of petals her face is a riot rain and smoke smile in a window wood and sea water listen to the civil war her hair is a rope out of a refugee camp old and new things burn cautiously without breaking anything nothing that matters she bends the rake the hook and the shadow ties continents in small colonies her body marked by the seasons Sailing North We left with cherry trees blossoming, people arranging polished horns in a window. Opposite to south Vegetation grew rusty, gold, scarlet red silver grey, brown. Inhaling thro, branches torn bare frozen. North: thorn, torn, horn ton, not. Moonshine stream The moon boat sails the gloom of dusk, the frozen waves glide the winter shore: cawing of crows, whistling of decoy, cattails stand in skyline of glass. But in the night another song is heard of dissonant tunes and open tones, its melody a daring clash of sounds, rippling drops on barren soil. I’ll board the boat in hush and voyage out to land of unrecorded sorrows; we’ll meet there to clutch speckles of dawn, flashes of tomorrow. Janet You know when your mum marches in swinging her necklace chain: she is the boss, the strong black woman who came to this country and made her way up. But she doesn’t want her child to go too far, break barriers yes, but not too far. Oh Janet, your vermillion fingernails wave, weaving a protective net around your children, midnight eyes search their rooms for hidden traps, devious tracks, looking out beyond your immaculate blouse and azure skinny jeans. You know that to survive they need to be topnotch, or playing dead to let danger pass, absent when rage blows up, when the ritual slaughter happens, when there are no brakes to human brutality and the sacrifice falls. Stay at home my child, with my curry chicken and cornbread braids of earth and wire. Canada Water Floating bird houses swim offshore, watermarks vibrate like quivering voices in wafer air; thinning sounds in the dead calm of the lagoon. The favour of the wind erases colours, brings new found land ashore; the secret of the pioneer is in blurring contours, evanescent circling tours. Different forms emerge: Cree and Ojibwe, tongues of the land and the sea, their signs lick stones with primordial drawings; petroglyphs trace the way back to the origin, which was rewritten. Missionaries wrote their alphabets shape-shifting the native core, now powerless but still there, haunting presence of guttural sounds in place-names, creeks, lakes, rivers and mountains. The new house has unfilled spaces I measure with my thoughts, wide windows and verandas bursting with light, a white staircase spiralling up, knots in the honey wooden floor like dark birthmarks or gigantic ants I skip by instinct. The corners are sealed with golden velvet, the walls are cream. On the roof the skylights mirror the blue in trembling reflections. I lean from the balcony drowsily looking down at the grey tarmac, a pool of flames.
On Thursday I went to the supermarket and did my usual round: salad, fruit, vegetables. While I was selecting the oranges a net bag of lemons rolled near me. It opened. A lemon came out of it, yellow, bright, its oval shape with two nipples looking like two firm breasts stuck together at the base. I picked it up, put it back in the net, and the net in the trolley. I went on with my round: potatoes, chicken legs, chicken breast, Cumberland sausages, haddock, bread rolls, salami, sliced bread, sugar, tomato passata, fusilli, linguine, orange juice, toilet rolls, ice-cream, tablets of water softener. A short queue at the till and home to unpack. When I came to the lemons I set them on a white chopping board and cut them in the middle to part the two breasts. I put them in a row on the board: eight rounded teats, their nipples set up, alert, ready to feel any shifting of mood. I handled a half with both hands and squeezed it, squeezed it within my palms. The liquid trickled into a glass bowl. Then another one, harder this time. The flesh had to be crushed properly, giving up all its juice. Another one: the pale yellow liquid was filling the bowl. My hands ached but I was doing a good job. I stopped when I exhausted them. Now the half lemons were empty rinds heaped on a corner of the board: flabby, hollow bags good for nothing. I poured the lemon juice in a jug of water, added two spoons of sugar and stirred. I threw the dry nipples in the bin.
Knit three, purl three: thirty three stitches for Peter’s jacket sleeve. 5mm needles. I chose dark blue for a boy. Derventwater glimmers in the distance, silvery stripes of green, grey and navy. Knit three, purl three. The apple of my eye, St John’s Primary year 5. Supersoft Aran: 75% acrylic, 25% wool. It’s thick but feels smooth on my fingertips. I’m not used to such thickness; I’d rather work with 3mm. But this is ideal for a jacket. Janet the nurse bought me five shiny leather-covered buttons for it. She always tries to help and make me feel at home. He’ll love it and wear it on Sunday when he goes out with Julie and Robert. She’s pregnant, a second child at last, due in spring. We hope it’s a baby girl. Use petal pink, peppermint and cream coloured wool. I’d die for that. Make all these tiny cardigans, leggings and bootees. Yes please, let it be a girl. Knit three, purl three. The blunt polished points catch the wool; the stitches slide smoothly on the needles. Pass it from one needle to the other, work it, make it worthwhile, useful. From a yarn ball to a jacket, my valuable work. Because I’m of no use now, sitting in a wheelchair the whole day, lying on a bed at night. I can use only my hands, to knit dolls, scarves, mermaids, mitts, socks, hats and pullovers for charity. My mind works with my fingers. And the lake was ten thousand silver ripples trembling in my veins, brushing my sweating arms, when he whispered: you’re my only one. Knit three, purl three, the stitches glide. When he died I felt relieved. No more of him, no more of him for the rest of my life. God be blessed. I could relax, knit in peace, go out when I could still walk, without asking permission, chat on the phone without being listened to, clean when I fancied it, cook what I liked. I don’t regret my life. Three children. All the washing and cleaning (no washing machine for more than ten years). The cold water like ice trapping my hands when I rinsed the clothes. The house had to be as clean as a whistle, tea always ready at six. And I worked three days a week at the school canteen. Knit three, purl three, the needles ticking like an inflexible clock. Once cleaning the bath I found long brown hairs in the tub. I asked him; he shrugged. I didn’t ask a second time. Those hairs spinning a web through my brain, trapping my thoughts. They could at least have cleaned up afterwards. But I didn’t really care; it was too late to care. I’d had enough of him before he had of me. The children left and got jobs. Just me and him, the swine. I’d have killed him if I’d had the guts. He’d have killed me, too. But we carried on as if nothing had happened. Nowhere else to go, no one else to care for. I felt too tired for another love: frustrated, fed up. After sixty it’s a deal, not a love affair. Knit three, purl three. I started a knit and crochet group at the library. I had my followers and fans. We taught each other: double crochet, treble, half treble, double treble. We learned how to increase, decrease, pick up stitches. We worked four to six hours undisturbed in a cold room once a week. Knitting kept us warm, words unravelling, tangled skeins loosening. Knit three, purl three. Then Julie had Peter. Cable, stocking stitch: this is what I need to use for his jacket. It was like giving birth again, painless and more touching. He was there: small, defenceless, so tender my eyes welled up. I was ready to protect and cuddle him. I felt I was worth something again. Knit three, purl three. At seventy-eight he started to forget the way home. I had to write the address on tiny pieces of paper and tuck them in his pockets. The police brought him home once: they caught him peeing at the entrance of Bridge Road Primary as the children were coming out. Fancy choosing a primary school to pee on! His brain was a rusted machine working at intervals. Sometimes I felt like flesh in his arms, a piece of meat he slashed. A piece of nothing. Knit three, purl three. This is what is left of me: hands knitting in a wheelchair. Better now than before. Churned up, that’s what I’d felt, always slogging away. And they expected it; everybody did. I screamed inside, howled at them. But they couldn’t hear me. They turned their faces away. Now I can rest. Knit three, purl three: twelve inches, almost there. I work the two sleeves together so I can’t go wrong. I make them the same. An old trick Lana told me. Lana the bitch, they called her. She had fun in her forties; they said she was hot. She said she felt it like pain. Where? I asked once. Everywhere, she said, even in my head. She needed a man to love. She was honest. She knew her own feelings. But men wanted fresh, rosy flesh. She had to dress up to make them stand up. Ah, her collection of revealing dresses and leather things, like toys and costumes for a masquerade. My cheeks were flaming when I saw it. Funny life, isn’t it? Knit three, purl three. Eighty-five. On the water sails blown by the wind are like inflated balloons. The golden leaves of the maple tree fill my window. Maybe this is the last time I’ll see their yellow flames against the blue, most beautiful when almost dead. Oh, I missed a stitch.
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