Pratibha, whose prize-winning pamphlet ATriptych of Birds and A Few LooseFeathers is published by Hedgehog Press late in 2020, began writing poetry in 2010. Her poems are featured in The Blue Nib online, as well as anthologies and print publications including Indigo Dreams’ magazines, Reach and Saraswati;Fly on the Wall: Chaos edition. Her work also appears on Words for the Wild and Bonnie’s Crew online sites. Winner of the NADFAS Poetry Competition 2009, she has shortlisted in several poetry competitions. Her poems are inspired by a love of nature. Much of her current work draws on experiences of growing up in 1950s England, the child of Irish Catholic immigrants. Images from her many trips to India, and the psychedelia of early 70s Notting Hill also creep onto the page. Her earliest experiences with writing included winning a Cadbury’s short story competition, aged 9, and writing and directing a school play at 10. There was a long break before she returned to writing relatively late, graduating from the University of Chichester aged 61 with a first-class honours degree in English and Creative Writing. Retired from singing and holistic therapies, Pratibha remains a keen gardener, apart from those occasions when the Muse calls.
Waves suck in, cast out, yank you off your feet, pummel empty of breath; thresh you into the shingle. Down, down. Throttle of panic. A plea bubbles from your mouth, heart pound shout gobbled by the swell. Brighton pier-posts wobble in watery smog, a crab fluxes into sand, other bathers a jungle of blurry legs, blasted- speaker mumbles, squeals. Suffocating. Breath wrung out of you the way your mother’s tough love wrung out the sheet she scrubbed rinsed scoured till her hands were scalded red with washing soda, effort. Puddles on the draining board, floor, her apron; faded pink and gold flamingos soaked through to the quill from all that splish splash sluice to erase a stain stubborn as sin that even coaxing and crooning, the salt tears she wept throughout, parching her to a whip of winter skirmished kelp, did little to appease. And the blight of that day stayed. A haunt in her eyes you puzzled over, like the blood on what you’d thought a blameless sheet.
Glittery Like Stars
Roses drooped, rain drunk, the day Mammy dragged me to the taxi, Golly Molly in my arms, Daddy left in the street, shrinking like a pricked balloon or magic spell gone wrong, to a full stop of a dot and when the taxi turned the corner, in a flash to vanish. Till three years on, at close of school, streets awash with autumn, he reappeared beyond the scrolled iron gate of St. Martha’s Convent, Finchley, not a heart’s leap from Aunt Lizzie’s flat. In his hand, a peace offering. Squishy, swish; gold foil all aflutter with green mauve butterflies; knotted tight with a spangly bow neither he nor I could loosen. His eyes when I wouldn’t talk to him, glittery like stars. Those same stars that wet Wednesday in the hospital, brilliant still though his universe was fading fast. Their shine forever doused as he lay in a froth of blue taffeta and pine at Dillistone and Wraights, light years past regrets.
On Reaching Heaven
Your eyes the bubble sparkle of a Moet sláinte, you’ll float across in that cherry cardigan you favoured towards the end. Stuck at home, you toasted the hours with a click of needles knitting socks for friends. I dropped by or phoned less often than I later wished though that last time I brought the cake. A treat we’d baked together years before; your warm hand on mine steering the heart beat symmetry of the wooden spoon through an anarchy of icing sugar, butter, splash – or more, depending on the mood – of Camp coffee. The spill of your song fizzing the shadows of the basement kitchen as I jammed together sponge open hearted as your love. The glory of walnut halves tallied one to ten onto my palm to be set with caution on the buttercream glaze. Baked in honour of the day, the sun with its celebratory gleam, unseasonable. Tenth of the tenth. The date you and I each entered this world and that you even with your sixth sense never guessed would be the day you’d leave.