Gjergj didn’t say child
or children, he said family – and it was soft
the way he said it, as if he were kissing
each syllable, making the word bigger
somehow, full of aunts and uncles
and cousins and nieces and nephews.
And when he said six weeks without pay,
he drew out the word pay so that it sounded like pain
and I knew we were on the wrong side
of Christmas and Mum was on the wrong side
of the desk. He held a pistol to her head, but all I saw
was sunlight slatting through Portakabin blinds,
making the black in his hand gleam.
The sun made mosaics of our eyes,
the whites of my mother’s: snow edged
with small red rivers, as she told him,
go on then, son. But he didn’t look at her
riddling her fingers on the desk
as if she were a girl playing the piano,
he tucked the pistol back into his grey coat,
along with the weight of her final syllable,
and stepped out into the Fen.
Published in The Rialto, 2016