Cathy Silk: All I Have

Oct 2023 | Hybrid, The Optimist

Katherine Mansfield Sparkling Prose 2023 – 3rd Place



I saw you again last night. It was the summer holidays and we were playing on the beach.

“Katie – bullrush! Tagged – you’re it!” I took in your panting, gasping face, ruddy-cheeked from the strain of chasing – your eyes of that marvellous transparent blue, flecked with silver straight from the reflections of the high, afternoon sun. Those coastal breezes that sand-blasted our foreheads, noses and cheeks, scuffed your hair into a tangle of curls. The soles of our bared feet were warm, calloused through summers of wandering and chasing along the bay’s shingled sand.

Then muscular clouds take over the horizon, the sun their hostage.

Cover him
in the cloth
of the land
that raised him
A tapestry
rich in
tui song

kōwhai blossom, flaming rata and burning Decembers
Lower his eyelids gently, gently, line them with perpetual
frescoes of spring daffodils, pastel suns, lolloping lambs

let him lie
far enough
to hear
the breakers
pounding in
the bay

Nights we spend playing in the Wellington summer then I bury you, just before dawn. Grief never loosens its grip – sleep fails, retreats and tries to tip-toe unnoticed over my face. It’s then I feel your little hands clasped around my neck and the buttery smell of sleep on your head.

That’s all I have.


Cathy Silk was born in Lower Hutt and grew up in Masterton. She attended Wellington Teachers College and trained as a primary school teacher before heading to Europe in the late 1970s. She lives in the Netherlands ( acquired the language, loves the cycle paths) and teaches English in the bilingual stream of a Dutch secondary school. Cathy has had work published in New Leaf (Bremen University), Northern Light (Scottish Universities’ Summer School) and the NZ School Journal.

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