Northwords Now

New writing, fresh from Scotland and the wider North
Sgrìobhadh ùr à Alba agus an Àird a Tuath

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The Box

by Antonia Kearton

It’s hardwood, warm, mid-brown, and
beautifully hinged, just shorter
than my octave-and-two handspan.

I chose it when my grandmother died.
I thought it had lived forever
in her house, holding her cigarettes,

near the cabinet of wonders
- the seahorse, the book smaller
than my fingernail – or was it

lined with silver foil and filled
with fudge, brought out each Sunday
after lunch?  I am uncertain.

I’ve memories of both,
and now no way of knowing.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter.  

My grandmother came from Latvia
before the war, with one
suitcase: a summer visit.  

She met my grandfather,  
the war broke out, she stayed.
The box cannot have come with her -

why choose it, even if she could
have known that this one case
was all she’d have from home?

I gave it to you, thinking
of your affinity with wood,
not knowing then that doing

so meant it was always
mine.  We have it still.
It’s on the bookcase, dark with age

and use, its carvings clear, now full
of sea-worn amber that I found
upon a beach in Latvia.

The Board and Editor of Northwords Now acknowledge support from Creative Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
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