Saturday 24 June 2023

'Windowledge Archives' by Judy Darley

Your great-grandma lives on windowledges. Edges attract her fingers: the pleats of her skirt, a curtsy of papery lips outlining each word she speaks. Peaks of skin rise and fall over the bones of her hands as she wrings them. Hems rustle as she plucks.

‘Luck’s on our side,’ she tells me, time and again. Gaining confidence, she nods, and I nod in answer. Swerving raindrops skate down the windowpane, and, clock-watching, I hope my mum comes home before ten. Endings and beginnings taste like dust and sugar in this place. Lace curtains hang thick with histories that aren’t mine; they sneak into my mind until I almost forget.

‘Getting married,’ she hums, and her eyes half-close.

‘Lose, losing, loss,’ I incant, blurred by her grief, and she smiles.

‘Miles apart on that aisle, we were, then chin to cheek, but he never asked me to own up. Upholstered in silk and blossoms promising joy. Oyster silk cocooning your mum with golden chrysanthemums.’

Mum’s barely visible in their wedding portrait, but your great-grandma’s palm presses her midriff as she admits: ‘My most beautiful sin.’

In their photo, all I see is his love, her hope, my mother’s beginnings, and yours, and mine; my head’s spinning. Pinning us to windowledges, it’s like I’m dreaming past and present. Entwined with my future, you stir deep inside. Ideas and hope hold me upright as I grasp your great-grandma’s hand. And I listen to her stories, readying myself to confess ours.

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