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Cuckoo Pint

Cuckoo Pint

Chrissie Gittins

I’ve finished now with corallines. Today is a day for cuckoo pint – Aram Maculatum. The paper is already sponged with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. You can see the small holes in the corners where I pinned it to the board for coating and drying. Anne will soon be here to help.

I love the arrow-shaped leaves, the pale green spathe. I place three leaves and a flower, then weight them with a sheet of glass. By the window seven minutes exposure will suffice on this bright May morning. Kentish water will bring out the Prussian blue.

Since father died on New Year’s Day time has inched forward slowly. My dear husband was so right to invite Anne to stay. We work together on the plates. I can’t say now with any certainly which are mine, which are hers and which we made together. But as we share our sorrow, so we share the placing of feathers – duck, emu, parrot, peacock, partridge.

Here she is now, rustling towards me with her smile, just as a chaffinch and a nuthatch fly to the window.

‘The day is so clear, Anna.’

‘We could take a walk this afternoon if you’d like to, Anne?’

‘I would like that.’

‘We could walk to Knockholt. The hedgerows are brimming with cow parsley.’

‘I will look forward to it. How can I help, Anna?’

‘If you could prepare the iris I’d be very grateful.’

It’s the evenings when I miss him most. He said that if his library were to be limited to two books it would be the Bible and Shakespeare. He would begin reading out loud to us after tea was over, and would often be still reading at midnight. Great swathes of Troilus and Cressida, scene after scene of The History Plays. He managed all the parts and spoke the stage directions in a whisper.

He whispers to me now – in the dead of night when the owls call and the trees swirl. He tells me of my mother who I never knew, of the future light he’s sure will shine through my cyanotypes.

Chrissie Gittins' first short story collection is ‘Family Connections’ (Salt). Her second, 'Between Here and Knitwear' (Unthank Books), was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards and selected by Helen Dunmore as one of her top two 2015 collections. Her stories have appeared on BBCR4 and in The Guardian, The London Magazine, Wales Arts Review, Litro, Unthology 6, Fictive Dream, Lunate and Postbox. She has also published three poetry collections for adults and five for children.

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