A Memory of the Hop Fields
She is in the front garden
bending low, picking bluebells,
wearing her old red apron,
with the Spanish dancer on the front.
She stands up, rubbing her lower back,
her mind shaping a memory.
The hop fields,
her mother lean, strong,
picking the hops as quick as a squirrel.
Her bal in plaits, tied on top of her head.
Her gold hoops pulling her ears down.
Ruddy cheeks, dry cracked lips.
Her father pulling poles,
his gold tooth for all to see.
At the end of a long day
she would stand on top of an apple crate,
comb his hair, kiss his neck tasting of salt.
He would pick her up,
Swing her high, low and say,
‘You’re the prettiest little chi there ever was.’
Bal – hair; Chi - daughter/child.
Mourners spill out into the alleyway. Amidst the black are flashes of purple and red of women’s scarves and men’s ties.
My uncle, a staff sergeant in the army and just back from Germany, is dressed in his uniform. He leans against the kitchen wall, having a smoke. We drink tea laced with whiskey. My aunts dry their tears on freshly pressed white handkerchiefs.
I go into the sitting room and see my sister sitting on a stool, her hands clasped tightly on her lap. The coffin is open. Grandfather is in his best suit. His pocket watch hangs from his top pocket. A family photograph is tucked into his waistcoat close to his heart. His old hip flask lies at his side, no doubt there will be a little whiskey in there. He still wears his gold ring. He looks as if he’s resting, as if he’ll sit up at any moment. I place my hand gently on his …
Grandfather and I are walking down the path to the greenhouse. I am six years old. It’s a hot day, I’m wearing my shorts. Weeds and wildflowers tickle my ankles. He pushes the door open, ushers me in, points upwards.
‘What d’ya think of the grapes my gal?’ Tilting my head back I see huge bunches, deep red, ready to be plucked. He reaches up, pulls a few down, rinses them in a bowl of water then places them in my hand. I bite one and the juice runs down my chin. I eat two more. ‘They’re lovely Grandfather.’ He smiles, opens a can of beer, takes a mouthful and says, ‘Do ya see these grapes? Do ya know why they’re so tasty?’ I shake my head. ‘Well it’s because the Mulo watches over ’em.’ He laughs, I laugh but I’m not sure who the Mulo is.
I finish my cup of tea and tell granny that I am going down to the greenhouse. The door is slightly ajar, the white paint faded, flaking. I push the door hard, go in and smell sawdust, stale beer and decay.
Aunt Ria’s Gypsy Gold
sovereigns and gold chains
hanging from her neck and wrists
rings through ears on fingers
she places them in an embroidered bag
slips it under the mattress
she sleeps soundly
as the gold warms itself
longing for her soft skin
Poems Copyright © Raine Geoghegan, 2022