No 13 - January 2001
We had two kinds of aunts.
There were the Irish aunts in England
our mother’s sisters (one dead two living)
and the Irish aunts in Ireland
who were our aunts by choice.
We had an aunt for every situation
great aunts cousin aunts fake aunts friends
of our mother’s mother
sad aunts mad aunts fastidious aunts
who had been in religious orders
musical aunts terrorist aunts twin aunts distinguished aunts
adventurous aunts who drove Ford transit vehicles.
These children of mine that have only one or 2 aunts
how will they ever learn anything?
Aunt Alice after 2 days followed her lover to Peru.
After the grand gesture the compromise
twenty years spent in undoing the surprise
of discovering herself head over heels above
the head scarves of the aunts cloud licking.
Aunt Fahy how can I praise her? The last word
always was her weakness nailed home her speech
perambulating out fo the woods to the final clearance
like the orange groves at Palma Nova where
the juice runs clear into the dish.
Aunt Evelyn was so mad for communication
her vowels ended in a rivulet of biro.
Before we went to visit days were squandered
deciphering her raging hieroglyphics. It would
always end up with some vital item we had
forgotten to bring with us. She would flag us
down in the arrivals concourse flapping out some
frantic semaphore message and we immobilised in
the middle distance unable to decipher even this.
Never ones to make strange at a party the aunts
could recite the Green Eye of the Little Yellow God
in its entirety. Before long they would be in amongst
the common-wealth a great jam of oral traffic in which
everyone gave way to no-one and all the cards were
dealt from different decks. The quietest month I ever
spent was in a hostel for the daughters of the colonies
where everything had to be explained in words of one
syllable. The aunts when they came to visit hunkered
down on the day room floor brought off a coup.
A perfect poly-chromatic pantomime a complete rendition
of the Rubaiyat with full and literal visual translation.
After which they distributed Foxes Glacier Mints furred
with lint from off the bottom of their handbags.
For days afterwards we were lint spitting.
Oh the delicate husbands of my aunts if they
didn’t die young they went to America if they
didn’t go to America they took to drink or to
religion apprehending visions like Saint Teresa.
The aunts it was nearly impossible to outlive them
you could always count on a decade or two of their
grave visiting pulling at the ears of the delicate husbands
the last chance of rebuttal planted with then.
Oh the delicate husbands of my aunts
how did they ever get the courage? What willow girls did
they then appear at nine o’clock those summer evenings
when the quality of light is everything? It must have
been the spring in the delicate men that bent them so far
and no further, to snap them back before the final levelling.
The aunts, there was always something Chinese about them
it was as if their former names were lost and they were really
foot-bound in some revolutionary error (only Aunt Mary
whose mind had wandered would ask at the tea table for
the return of the North). Some of then were foot soldiers
in it mixing mass and messages in the heel of a boot.
It was a favourite pass time of the aunts to set
the boyfriends up like rows of skittles and knock them
down one after the other. It was their delight to nearly
drag you to the altar before unravelling in tragedic style
the fatal flaw. The teeth. The meanness. The body odour.
The lack of sex appeal. It was uncanny the feel they had
for it from out of a crowd the reckless shot plucked clean.
They had a way of illuminating a thesis with some boy
yanked by the ears from the nineteen thirties cars
that broke down after dances, hotel rooms and themselves
negotiating on the landing. These young aunts
importing fifty years of hindsight into
the shy twists of their love passages.
Sick and tired of being neither one thing or the other
half cut and half come again the aunts get drunk
for a chance to dislocate the binocular vision
to recoup the two images on the one retina.
When the glasses come in they borrow one another’s
giving themselves Crazy-Jane end of the pier visions
a world wide web of all-seeing ambivalence.
Their fathers taught them how to read the clock
and ever after you could set your watch by them
while we shot through with yarrow stalks
they stayed behind repositories of the old necessities
their handbags stuffed with rosaries and sal volatole
clean handkerchiefs and barley sugar drops.
The stern aunts died stern and the pious aunts died holy.
The vain aunts died vain and the fey aunts died in a frenzy.
The bad aunts died soignée without benefit of religion.
They were always themselves on respirators or
in oxygen masks never beaten just temporarily
countermanded. The old names could still
tincture them flushed up like brides in the bed
elbow led up on the pillow they gave out yards.
The cemeteries of the aunts visited by bicycle on which
the aunts discourse. It is a marvel to them that you would
get up on it that you would balance on the handlebars
extravagant shop-bought flowers. That you would not be
afraid to leave it. That you would cycle home on it near dark.
The aunts raise themselves up in their flowery beds to attend
the tyres’ hasp through scalds of scattered gravel before turning
among themselves crooked in the arms of the delicate shieling
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The