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School Year’s 6-7 Category Winner Mani by Miriam Natasha Ramagge

Sitting on the hard Persian mg in the cosy room
Sunlight streaming in through the glass windows,
Making a pipe-cleaner sculpture, hers was better than mine,
The smell of rice and raisins wafting through the air.
Mani gets up, "I'm going to check on the rice,"
I ask to play on the iPad:
"Of course you can" - I would not have been allowed to do that at home.
She leaves the small room, her voice hanging in the air as I happily type in the password.
When she comes back she smiles and her eyes wrinkle,
"Dinner" she says softly,
I can feel the warmth around her,
I run to the kitchen hearing the soft padding of her slippers behind me,
After she has served me she sits down wincing - a pain shoots up her bad back.

Going to London.
Getting off the plane, the frosty air brushing against my face,
Mani needed serious treatment.
Mum was prepared though, signing me into Monkey Puzzle nursery,
Scooting there with my cousins, past dewy trees and white houses.
Looking around in wonder, no mismatched flats and beeping cars.
Loving the colourful nursery with its silent sleeping room and white-aproned chef,
Playing in the cosy playroom with the pink hoola hoop and leopard print furby,
Laughing until we could not laugh anymore.

Back in Gibraltar seeing Mani less and less,
Rocio. Mani's new carer. frizzy black hair. black eyes. always in red,
Rocio buying me my first McFlurry (vanilla with caramel sauce)
Mum and Dad visiting Mani in the hospital.

Lying in bed, the first signs of sunlight peeking in from behind the blind,
Dad walking into my room and sitting on my bed,
"Last night Mani passed away."
Crying into my pillow
Knowing I had captured my last image of her,
Feeling nothing good could happen again,
Never again would I hear her accented voice or feel the warmth that lingered around her,
Never again would I make another pipe cleaner sculpture or sit on a Persian carpet with her.

The fear of losing another grandparent haunts me,
New children play on the balcony of Mani's Sunnyside flat
Their grubby hands on the black railings I once touched -
I know she is gone.

Judge Charlie Durante’s comments:

“Miriam’s Mani is such a mature, sensitive and emotionally charged poem that you can only wonder how someone so young could have such feelings. Mani is a much-loved grandmother, who has created an almost magical world with her Persian rug, pipe-cleaner sculpture and the rich smell of rice and raisins which pervades her home. Like most grandparents Mani is indulgent, loving and warm-hearted. Then illness intervenes and the long journey through pain and suffering starts for Mani and, of course, for the family. The grandmother has a temporary reprieve and the grandchild is distracted with cousins, the colourful nursery and play. Meanwhile the deadly illness takes its toll and poor Mani fades into a blur of unfocused images. Her death is announced in a matter-of-fact way by the father. Then the feeling of irreparable loss engulfs the child. The poem is worthy of an adult. It has a depth of feeling and a maturity of thought and expression seldom found in a child of Miriam’s age. She must be congratulated on crafting such a beautiful and poignant poem.”

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