Crossing Borders Commission

By William Letford

This piece is part of the 'Crossing Borders' series, commissioned by the International Literature Showcase.

                                                     Grandfather’s English had always been good but the pronunciation was thick, as if he ladled each word from the back of his throat. His laughter was cavernous, like the inside of his lungs were as bald as bongo drums. I imagined the sound being belted out around tea fires, snow on the branches of trees, black bears creeping backwards into the shadows. Gestures are a geography of their own and his swept like a landscape of valleys and mountains. I’ve seen men swell their chests, throw back their shoulders and raise their heads when ready to fight. This was his posture when he told a story. Daring someone to questions the facts – even if the truth was spun thin as a fairie’s wing. On the last day we talked he sat at the kitchen table. A hardwood table, scored with fork marks and knife ruts. His breath had become an orchestra of whistles, high and low and long and short. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is not a table, it is a map. Your mother,’ he placed his finger beside three prongs gouged out of the wood, ‘is here. Your grandmother,’ his finger moved toward a curved scar, ‘is here.’ And he continued, uncles and aunts and great-relatives, me, himself. He spread his arms to encompass the table. ‘Yours, he said, ‘so you know the way home.’  

                                                     ten years later I realise}
                                                     the table is more than a
                                                     map/it is a continent |||
                                                     that can be carried -- by
                                                     two people // riverbeds
                                                     angled like=breadknives
                                                     canyons carved from{{{{
                                                     cutlery( )clearings made
                                                     from candles burned low
                                                     generations ---contained
                                                     within no more space:::::
                                                     than it takes ||| to have a
                                                     conversation : languages
                                                     flowering at :::: breakfast
                                                     ideas:::twisting like roots 

Photo credit: DorkyMum