Aunt Maud, who’d never slept a night
away from 4 Wharf Street, two up
two down, rented, close to where they piled
the coal from Bellerton and Sneyd –

reads only columns of the Evening Sentinel’s
Births, Marriages and Deaths, her lips laboriously
shaping names she’d once called out
across the school yard, down a cobbled entry…

Bourne, Mountford, Holdcroft – village names,
all spells that now arouse my inward ear
to her coarse, creaking voice, slow-rising wheeze
of her fat laughter – taking me with her

Down Smallthorne, into Swettenhams – sawdust
thick on the floor – she buys her bacon there –
past Graham’s Chemist’s, opposite St Saviours;
where she goes twice every Sunday…

into Oddies where she might leave a pair
of Harold’s work boots or collect their Nellie’s
Mary Janes – my nose remembering
delicious leather, like a tasty dinner…

but Aunt Maud’s already out on the bricks;
has run into Ethel Dabbs, or Sally Lees (as was)
and soon she’s well away. And I’m fidgety
again with a child’s helpless boredom…

then her sweaty struggle up steep
Smallthorne bank. Once home — all out of puff
she’ll say, but soon be bawling Lizzie, Lizzie
over our back wall. And now I think how

little spite there was – how she’d answer
any knocking day or night, ham hands deft
enough at setting tumbled limbs to rights,
for wringing out the cloth to give a cooling skin

one last respectful washing down – just getting on
with tidying, giving a good airing to some
frowsty little room, — opening a window onto
another bare brick street, just like her own.

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