Poem to my Aunt

I see you kept those wild black curls
though you’ve let your eyes burn out:
those un-stoked embers among the coals,
ashen as your hair should be.

Your mother, my great-grandmother, swept up
into the night’s silver eye. Her Victorian heels
dug hard into the carpet, even after a decade
of slow-depleted strength, but you
simply faded out of sight
without a whisper.

You could have grieved with us. We would
have made room. You could have
come back and visited us – anytime.

I saw you, years later
at a car-boot sale. You looked so frail
hanging to his arm as if the earth were already dragging
you down into the ground, your heels
yielding to it – and though I’d heard about your stroke
it still shocked me to recognise the life
wisped away from you.

I wished you’d have come to us
let him sleep in the armchair,
his head disarmed
against the embroidery.
We would have laughed the fire back into you.