A Game of Patience
The door clicks closed behind me.
Julia glances up, poised mid-game, a playing card held aloft in her delicate,
elegant, long, tapered, thin, white fingers.
In that pregnant moment between now and the future, no sound.
My eyes and brain freeze the scene, burning it acid-sharp in memory.
This is a moment to which we can never return.
She sits in her virginal, soft-folded, cornflower dress, cotton-trimmed
with angular severity.
She will make a good nurse.
She has whiled away this sultry afternoon, patiently.
She is faintly puzzled now.
I have left the fields. Left the men to the burning, harvest heat. They will surely slack.
The circle of the green-baize table traps the circle of cards.
On the table, two apples, one rich, ripe and tempting, the other a bitter gall.
From beyond the open window, a hot draught eddies across the room,
Stirs a stem of barley, carelessly abandoned to its fate
A poppy bud, prematurely picked, falls to the floor
Like Janus, I stand at the thresh
But the door to ‘before’, is closed.
Now we can only look forward to
Future or no future.
The die has been cast
The Black King revealed.
Julia’s bare and barren fingers are poised,
Taut, ready to turn the next card
She is expectant,
This woman with burnished, copper hair and stiff spine.
She knows I have not brought a marriage proposal
Thought that may follow,
Sooner than we expected.
With impassive gaze and oblivious expectancy, she waits,
To speak is to sin
To break this moment
The burden of my news weighs heavy on my heart
Still, Julia waits with practised poise.
‘They’ve declared war’
Slowly, she blinks and turns her head
To the scene outside
Where the men toil in the poppy-stained fields
Until their card is called.
Helen How is an award-winning writer living on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. Her family roots are Gaelic-speaking Scots and she enjoys performing and writing to share the culture of both North-East England, where she grew up, and Scotland, her chosen home. A professional writer and teacher, she now devotes her time to creative writing. Much of her work embodies the haunting tone of childhood memories and the stories told to her by her parents and grandparents. She takes her inspiration from folklore, the landscape and art.
The Ekphrastic Review
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