My Aunt and Cousins at a
Distance in Essex
Essex is not that far, as the crow flies.........
its sheen shearing past East London clouds,
an oily glass of eyes reflecting a thunder sky.
At the bar you chose your drink, a port and lemon,
sweet wine fortified in bitterness, your stronghold,
the glass held tightly as if frozen to your hand.
You drank with the enemies of your older brother:
parents and siblings who shed his natural dignity
onto the Axminster carpet. Your side was chosen.
Your smile behind his back. Your one mistake.
Now after nearly 50 years I find you in Essex
in fresh widowhood, reinforced by two daughters
and shielded by a fog brewed in scorn against
this witness whose memories are brimming
with truths too strong for your drinks cabinet.
Your own mirror knows where the blame lies
as you chew upon the debts you have repaid.
He was disowned and he is gone. I am here,
his descendant and his defendant, our names
wiped with generous guilt from your hands.
I wanted to see you and meet two strangers
but you chose another port and lemon,
having talked the bitterness into a sweetness
for your family. Four tongues became one.
Remember, your marriage and children exist
because of him and everything he did for you.
No answer to my messages that could not fail.
I am shunned and stunned on his behalf.
In the gallery of online images, I saw the faces
growing, ageing. Could hatred crease the skin
around an eye? Na´vely I shed a tear.
And so the crow flies onwards, past Essex
to anywhere beyond my reach, even the Moon.
Enjoy your port and lemon and drink that distance in.
If you have any thoughts about this poem, Susan Wilson would be
pleased to hear them