Nana’s Hair

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Her heavy thick plaits were destined

to be dipped into inkwells by boys.

She turned sixteen, was determined

to cut it short. Her father, devastated,

didn’t talk to her for weeks.

Free and light, she kept the plait

woven into a comb.

 

The first time I came across it

was a surprise. Like finding

a living creature. I knew

it was hers by its colour.

Heirlooms cluster in our house.

Open any drawer, you might find

a box containing my great grandmother’s hat,

a plait of auburn hair.

 

When I checked today the plait

wasn’t there. Hibernating

as though imagined.

 

I suppose something so free

likes to keep moving.

 

 

 

 

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Grandad’s Passover

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I open Nana’s recipe book, find

the Passover recipe. Soak

currants, glace cherries, orange peel

in a Kiddush cup of sweet

kosher wine. Cream butter

and sugar, add six eggs one

by one, almond and matzo meal

with a teaspoon of cinnamon.

I want this magic-spell recipe to make

him remember.

 

We arrive at the nursing home

second night Seder. Grandad recognises

the box of matzah. Says ‘Pesach!’

as though wondering how he could forget.

He sings along to the Ma Nishtana,

reaches a hand to his head— yarmulke

in place. His right hand holds

the Kiddush cup, touch familiar.

He is offered a pickle.

‘Should be safe’ he says.

 

We give him a piece of Passover fruitcake.

I wait, wanting Nana’s recipe to trigger

taste-memory. Want him to recall

a sweetness only this cake can bring.

He takes a bite. And as my uncle wheels him

back to his room, he notices the photo

of Nana on the wall, says

‘that’s my darling wife’.

 

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