Kitchen Mattress

By EV McLoughlin

(after learning about the death of Shura Hughes)

When you were ill,
and croup would
seize your little chest,
we dragged our blankets 
to the kitchen and made
a mattress on the floor.
Wrapped safely in my arms,
your breathing eased
aided by the steam
from the pot of boiling water 
on the gas stove

Listening to your breathing
and sleepy conversation
about the day to come,
I can’t help thinking of a girl,
same age as you in 1969 — 
lying asleep in her mother’s arms
on a narrow mattress in the kitchen
gas stove on.

E.V. is a writer who dabbles in visual arts. Her poems were published in Panning for Poems, Bangor Literary Journal and Rat’s Ass Review; longlisted for Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2016 and shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2017. She loves coffee, books, city lights and Harry Potter (a little bit too much). In her spare time, she could be found doing social media for the Speakbeasty podcast, drinking aforementioned coffee, arguing animatedly about whether fantasy books should be allowed at a sci-fi book club, and tweeting @evelynblake712.

***This poem was originally a part of The DeathBox: an exhibition of poems and prose about death, conceived & curated by Lucy Beevor and Therese Kieran with contributions from local writers (22–30 September 2016, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland)