POPPY

 

Like a bruised or broken rib

Grief gets worse before it gets better.

I thought I could stand and joke and jibe

About the wonderful Romanian

Nurse who, taking your blood,

Made us laugh and throw our heads back

When she said, mischievously,

‘Actually, I am Transylvanian’.

 

But even this can’t hijack the mood.

 

The shock of your loss still echoes

Through the mansion of the life you left behind

And of the friends and family now gathered, who knows

If we can catch you in the wind ?

 

Who knows how we will cope

No more with hope

You’ll pop up somewhere

Unexpected, unaware

How much your smile could

Melt our worries; how your food

Could feed our hunger

And our spirit too.

 

When you were younger

You were constantly up for adventure:

Ireland, dreadlocks, a small tattoo

You swore was only henna.

You became a young mother, a single parent.

 

And not knowing you knew

Exactly what to do

We all soon learnt

Of your strength, and the lengths

You would go to, to provide for your child.

 

The work you undertook

As catering chef and cook

In the pubs of Brighton, London

And overseas. The weddings,

The Corsican Carousel,

Hurly Burly at Glastonbury

(A thousand covers a night!)

The Basket Makers, The Lewes Arms

Bom-Baynes and St James’ Tavern

Your own kitchen at Hand in Hand –

Each of these a challenge and a new found land.

 

I never saw you cooking without music playing

On the small radio in the kitchen

And there’d always be a smidgeon

Of some herb I’d never heard of

Thrown in for good measure, and taste.

 

Later, when your knee became too sore

For you to cook professionally anymore

You explored in yourself a new creativity –

A passion for working with leather.

 

Then, simultaneously, you chose to care for mothers

Who struggled with breast feeding, and themselves.

 

It was as if the need to feed the world

Returned to its source in you

Where, in every circumstance,

Be it patisserie, breast milk or bechamel

You always knew what to do.

 

And then, finally, through your last trials

You showed us a new kind of knowledge.

You taught us how to forage

Not for food, nor even courage

As this was there already in abundance –

 

You taught us to pick and choose

Each moment as one’s last

To celebrate its brilliant rays

Without doubt or shadow cast.

 

 

Julian Nangle

 


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