Preparing Sunday Lunch with Nan-Nan’s Ghost

by Kathryn Bevis

Awarded 2nd Prize in PPP Poetry Competition 2023

She’s busy doing though she’s been dead, what,
twenty years? In her kitchen’s fragrant haze
she measures flour and milk by eye, beats
the batter with a fork, flexes her wrist
to pour it in the dimpled tin, hot fat
pooling in its cups. She knows her Yorkshires
will rise like clouds, knows the meat will ascend
from the oven, bronzed as her arms that time
in Vegas when she hit jackpot on the slots.

Grandad’s here. He’s dead too, bored to death
by dementia, daytime telly, sippy cups.
He snores on the sofa, startles to, scans
Ceefax for the football scores. Mum, Dad —
our Jean, our Alan — are in the front room,
still young, still married, still miserable,
though they’ll outlive us all. I’m six, nit-combed
from the night before and bathed in Mr Matey,
sat ring-side as Nan-Nan lifts aloft

the joint of glistening beef from the cooker’s
eyelash-singeing blast of heat. She anoints
the flesh with oil. The pressure cooker valve
jitters, hisses over the stove’s blue flame.
Inside, the cabbage yields. But it’s later
I’m waiting for, after the meal, the time
when she and I will stand at the sink
together, washing up: the radio’s gabble,
her soft body near and warm as I wobble

on my plastic step. Spoons will glint through
the suds as we baptise a past that hasn’t
happened yet: where Nan-Nan doesn’t let
recriminations fly, tribal round Mum’s
head, where Dad didn’t decide to leave, became,
instead, a better man. In the afterlife
where they live now — the one that’s shortly
to be mine — all will be transfigured. We’ll scrub
those plates like silver dollars, make them shine.