Aunt Nance

By Philomena May

When I was young, I used to visit
A tall, crumbling tower of Victoriana,
Set high on an embankment
In a scene of Hardyesque rurality.
The air redolent with hay and cattle.

There were beehives.
Woven cones with sweet centres.
Uncle Jack gently removed a dripping yellow comb
For me to draw my finger across and lick.
I laughed in anticipation.

Berni and I liked the outside elsan.
A dash across the backyard in the rain.
Through a rattling door
Into an outside toilet with a double seat
Wooden and well worn.
The place was spidery with peeling, painted walls.
We sat in tandem, giggling at the novelty,
The rudeness of it!
We needed to go to the toilet a lot on those visits.

The kitchen was large and homely.
A black range dominated.
A sooty kettle sat whistling.
Poultry sat, perching,
Wandering inside at will,
much to our urban amazement.
The room was untidy, papers sprawled.
Bulky brown furniture waited.
Leaning against grey walls.

In this midst sat Aunt Nance
In shadow, as the memory dims.
A figure dressed in black.
Maybe a hat to match?
Rocking rhythmically by the range.
Tea and scones and smiles.

Uncle Jack was dark and simple,
With the purple ruddiness of the plough boy.
He taught me to play bagatelle.
Balls of silver sprang up,
Streaking round and through obstacles.
The room was next door to the kitchen,
Damp and unused.
Given a brief life by visitors.

I was sorry when we left.
The cows continued to graze in the distance
I loved the secure sameness of the place
And longed to return.

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