Maiden Aunts

When I grew up
the world was full
of maiden aunts –

all brave old birds
(my mother’s phrase).
Mine lived in Plymouth,
one in France:

Gladys, Mildred,
Eugenie –
names from the Nineteenth

Our visits seemed
to make them happy –
they’d bake sponge cake
for us, for tea.

Kind smiles disguising
iron willpower.
Grandfather clocks
chimed on the hour.

Sometimes they mentioned
men who’d died
during the war.
They never cried.

Their houses shone,
polished each day
as though the past
were on display. 

I remember the sweet
old woman’s smell
when we were taken
to say farewell –

heaven, I think,
must have a mansion
where maiden aunts
on meagre pensions

dine on left-
overs from luncheon.

Tom Vaughan

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Tom Vaughan would be pleased to hear them.