The Aunts – Helen Burke

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
2000 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicator: Anthony and Ann Thwaite

They sit about my house, the aunts –
drink teat, play cards and laugh.
They sit about my house.
I listen to them.

Sarah, tall and wiry, strong of arm,
and Lella, more delicate, lying
on the sofa, to catch again
her breath.

They sit about my house. I hear the aunts,
their easy talk and laughter,
their tales of people long since gone,
their talk of you,
I hear them best when I remember you.

The sound of their words soft
doves upon the air –
burrs caught up in downy cloth,
their talk of better days
and times to come.

Sitting, watching the coals glow
in my fireplace – as though
the aunts still breathed on them, – they glow.
I breathe in and out with them,
willing them to go on – but even the tallest
of the flames dies away and the last
of the warm embers I see is
also stopped for breath.

Copyright © Helen Burke 2000

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