issue 3

october 2015

issue 3 - october 2015

Who is Nana Kip? - Lee Kimber

The little girl is six.  She stands as close to her mother as she can and stares at the bed, its sheet folded in a strict hospital line across the old woman’s chest.  There are metal bars sticking up from the other side.  The nurse who’d pointed the bed out to the two visitors, had said casually that Mrs Kippenberger had fallen out of it a few nights ago.  The girl looks into the nurse’s face to see whether she is telling the truth and wonders how an adult, especially an old adult could possibly fall out of bed.

Her curious gaze is just above that of the woman’s looking up from the pillow.    She sees the pale blue nighty with a string twisted out from under the wrinkled neck.  The skin on the woman’s arms and hands is stretched over bones white with blurry brown patches.  Her hair is spindly.  She is gripping the girl’s mother’s hand.

‘Is that you Diana?’  The old woman struggles to focus, then she searches the mother’s face and fixes on her eyes.    Her mouth is mostly open, tongue muscle moving breaking and creating strings of wet.  She needs moisture to lubricate her words, they are air which barely reaches the mother although she is bent in close.

‘Hello, Nana Kip.   Yes, I’m Diana, Rufa’s daughter.’

 ‘Ah … yes.’  She’s forgotten who Diana is but remembers the name.  ‘Ah … yes, Diana.’  The eyes close for a moment and pop open again.  ‘Ah Diana … and who is this?’  The eyes are now on the child who has turned slightly away and is looking down wondering where the woman’s slippers are and looks around for a dressing gown – she can’t see either. 

There is a shriek, ‘Where’s he going?’  The girl jumps and searches the room with startled eyes.  There is no one there; the passage separating the lines of beds is empty.  Her mother hasn’t turned, she is focussed hard on her grandmother’s face, eyes pleading for further signs of recognition. 

Suddenly laughter is coming from the same bed where the yell had come from.  It sounds wild.  The child, eyes closed, moves into her mother and is nearly standing on one of the cream shoes.  Her nostrils sting with the smell of urine and disinfectant and there is a faint whiff of stale talcum powder.

The woman has closed her eyes.  Has she gone to sleep?  She doesn’t open them again.  
Diana is saying goodbye, her voice heavy.  The girl looks into the familiar face, searching for tears because she sounds quivery, but there are none.  Diana now stands up straight.  She shakes the girl from her coat, catches her hand and leaves.

As they approach the doors at the end of the passage, the little girl looks up again.  ‘Who is Nana Kip?’

Her Hands - Lee Kimber

I watched
her hands fold the sheet,
turn its edge over,
pick at it,
pull it a little
this way and that. 
That’s what they do,
the nurse said,
in their last few days.

I’d watched
her hands for years,
rolling jam drops, peanut brownies,
pressing each ball flat with fork tines,
handing us the spoons to lick,
air warm, full with biscuits baking.

I’d watched 
her hands years ago
fondle my baby brother,
soap his skin,
stroke his damp hair,
brush his warm cheek.
Her fingers 
gripped for his first step,
and her hands
lifting him from his first bike crash.

I’d watched
her hand 
curled around a smoke
with blue wisping up
to the yellowed ceilng.
I’d seen the ashtray full,
the other hand holding her head
weary with the worry of teenagers.

I’d watched
her hands 
in her garden,
scratched from thorns, 
nails browned from the soil,
pruning, pulling carrots, picking fruit,
taking every flower 
to arrange in our lounge 
on my wedding day.

I watch 
her hands now
on her last day, 
pinching at the sheet.

I still them with mine -  
they stop.

I am holding both hands - 
she has stopped.

We never held hands.
I feel I am breaking her rules –
but can’t help it.

Contributor's Note

My background is in biology and education, but at this moment I am writing and writing.  I’ve authored Bug in the Dark, a children’s picture book (in its second print run), now I’m a wannabe writer of adult stuff so have dipped into this single third-year Creative Writing paper (ENGL314) and who knows?


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