NANNU AT THE KITCHEN TABLE

NANNU AT THE KITCHEN TABLE

Dreamt I had just enough time
and just enough strength
to pull up my fallen boxers
before staggering across the hall
and crashing onto the quilt
Face down
heart on the accelerator pedal
Either it slowly lets up
or presses down harder
till the cliff edge

After that 
I was in foetal position
unable to stretch out my legs
due to the cold metal beam
Just like nannu’s bed 
in my room back in Qrendi
a bit on the small side 
for my limbs

For some reason nannu’s bed
was here in my Bonnevoie kitchen
along the grey wall
in place of the wooden table

Ah nannu Wiġi
my one true father
Hawn xiħ
dejjem fik naħseb
meta nkun se mmut
Hey old man
you’re the one I think of
whenever I’m about to die

Just like the time that bay leaf
got stuck in my throat
one night late home from work
famished as a long-postponed full stop
devouring Paula’s ragù
from the day before
without looking
Totally not her fault
my mind elsewhere
probably south

A twenty-minute concert
heaving like a lunatic
past onze heures du soir 
in a quartier 
much quieter than this one
No neighbour came knocking
no neighbour called an ambulance
Alone in the bathroom
window open wide
coughing hard to budge the leaf
The mirror reminded me
it was the third anniversary of nannu’s death
Certain I was about to join him
wherever he was
wherever he is

There I was
spewing memories across the floor tiles
My baby brother hiding 
in the corner of the wardrobe
Zija pushing me on the swing
Nanna’s piercingly forgiving eyes
The sparrows whistling in the morning
għasafar tal-bejt
and the black bird that came 
through the yard door
into the bedroom
maybe Kelina saying hello
when I moved back at 26
The Kannadiga haiku poet, 
palmist and numerologist
on the outskirts of New Delhi
telling me I’ll make many enemies
but live a long creative life
I’ll pretend to believe him again
Somehow I finally managed 
to grab the leaf with the tips of my fingers
and slowly tug it out

I trudge into the kitchen
switch on the light
nannu’s bed isn’t there
the table is
A tidy mess
Gloves not yet opened
on a small pile of magazines
not yet opened either
The surgical mask from LuxExpo
Keys in the beret
resting on the map of Luxembourg 
still folded
Medical bills and certificate
The untimely estate agent flyer 
torn into sixteen squares
And a queue of all the medicines
I’ve been avoiding

Nannu Wiġi
how I miss his profound calm
reading at the kitchen table
or listening to the rużarju 
on Radju Marija
or just sitting and observing
without judging
His loudest movement of the afternoon
would be when taking off his beret 
and using the tip 
to scratch deep into his scalp

Forever calm
even when nanna would lose her temper
and begin shrieking
calling him lazy
with the worst Maltese expletives
you’ll probably never hear
Words I had forgotten I knew
until last summer
when they spurted out of my mouth
toward an abusive driver on the motorway
or in Maltese traffic
can’t remember exactly
maybe both
The words bounced off the windscreen
back into my face
and I had to pull over

They’re in my green notebook somewhere
wherever it is
Ah yes, of course
the little suitcase
Last week I took all travel notebooks
from under Ottu’s sun-shaped abdomen
and packed them
for the impossible drive to Bow
Never mind
I won’t bother looking for them now
No swearing 
till the mourning’s over

Nannu never travelled abroad
except once to Gozo
He was too frightened of flying
as I’ve become now  
There goes another cargo plane
low above the cemetery

My poor sobrinos
losing their abuelo
just like that
My brother and his wife
following what they can
from the other side 
of the Golfo de Vizcaya
No funeral
no family gathering
only the little that fits on a screen
2-D pain
I can only guess
hurts more than 3-D

Sent the kids a video last night
of Ottu dancing
to Octopus’ Garden
tap-dancing on the keyboard
floating on the sea bed
across the screen behind him
then swimming up the Atlantic
to northern Spain and southern England
I hope they enjoyed it
as much as I did
Still gives me a chuckle

Heart pounding somewhat
Might as well try out the anxiety pills
Haven’t read the leaflet
like a papyrus scroll
but I trust Dr Zuzana
Mint tea, rum, honey
A little more nervous that last night
I’ll be extra careful 
not to spill it on the keyboard again
The A already froze once
and I might need it
if I have to scream

Nordazepam
4. QUELS SONT LES EFFETS
INDÉSIRABLES ÉVENTUELS
amnésie antérograde
amnésie passagère
Iż-żikk
Le ta
No way
I need my memory intact
If I forget the taste of the sea
I might as well drown in air

What does the internet say
Can remain in blood and brain
for up to 99 hours
Ostra
that’s over four nights
of memory loss

What does the nor- stand for
I wonder
Maybe north
as in far from the south
as in fog or mist
like this blur in my eyes
Can hardly read the words on screen
nor in my mind
Why did I bother
I won’t be taking this pill again

Also used to treat
restless legs syndrome (RLS)
I’ve never heard of that
but I’d quite like to keep walking
for as long as it’s permitted
Third and final night of mourning
Tomorrow I look forward to hoofing it
to buy cardamom tea from Amer

Rocket Man
another of Ottu’s favourite songs
No dancing this time
just sit back and listen
I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife
And all this science I don’t understand
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

Ah to be on nannu’s bed now
even if a little small
for my tired legs
Sleeping here isn’t that bad
the second-next-best bed to be in
sunrise or sunset on the quilt
and a blue sheet

Hope that dream doesn’t return
If it happens tonight
please
don’t say I died in Luxembourg
I died in the République
de Bonnevoie

---

#wdv #timezones #walking #covid19

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