"Wading neck deep in a swamp, your revolver is neither use nor ornament until you have had time to clean it" Mary H. Kingsley (1897)

Tea And Time With Auntie

And now two months have passed:
Then she sat in convalescence;
I, about to fly.

Medicines, oils and remedies still line the shelves.

Family gifts, time, photographs:
Her silent companions for the evening soaps.
All gaze quietly down,
Idly wondering when last she left the house.

Books, her bible, pills and lotions,
These have proved her daytime friends and props,
To fill the hours when serials take their sleep. 

Support surrounds her.
She is safe to field her troops:
Competence and authority unquestioned. 

Her arguments for independent living.
Like chess pieces
Carefully placed upon a board.
Expertly drilled,
Almost word-perfect:
Conversations marshalled as military manoeuvres,
White Queen swoops,
Her castle defended:

“Did your finger leave that piece, Auntie?”
“I think not.”
If you dare…

We take our tea,
Discuss our aches and pains.
A granddaughter’s immanent stay.
My travels.
Recite once more the mantra of the middle-class:
The importance of good staff;
Their scarcity.

My lame jokes elicit a young woman’s laughter.
Our generations have met and flirted.
My houseboy and the driver are summoned,
Fed, while deftly probed.
Then both dismissed
To wait outside,
In their proper place,
Out on the verandah.

They can sit,
And wait,
As she must.

And now once more it’s time to leave. 

Alone again,
My aunt will sit and coach her armies,
And recuperate.
While, once more, I fly.


3 responses

  1. The sitting … the waiting … remind me so much of John Milton’s poem, “On His Blindness”:

    WHEN I consider how my light is spent
    E’re half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one Talent which is death to hide,
    Lodg’d with me useless, though my Soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, least he returning chide,
    Doth God exact day-labour, light deny’d,
    I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
    Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
    Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and waite.


    You’ve caught the essence well … in all ways.

    August 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm

  2. Toffeeapple

    What a marvellous narrative. Auntie seems to be a stalwart woman. I like the glimpse into someone’s living arrangements.

    August 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    • She is now 88, and still fiercely independent.

      August 6, 2011 at 5:29 pm

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