She was unapologetically archaic,
lavender-doused and usually lace-beflounced
as any Victorian auntie ought to be,
but carried a pearl-handled derringer
in her handbag, fashioned for the discerning dame
who might need to speak an authoritative word
to a miscreant who came threatening life or loot
or person. She played five card stud
on Fridays, took tea at the Ritz-Carleton
on Thursdays at four, escorted you, her small niece,
on the Swan Boats on languid August Sundays
because, she said, she liked the rippling muscles
of the college peddlers’ legs in khaki shorts,
and the ducks kissing their reflections in the pond.
She handed down all sorts of essential knowledge:
the best shop for boot repair, how to apply rouge
mirrorless without looking like a tart,
storing onions in a stocking hung from a hook
with just the right amount of drying air,
and how to cut a quarrel to the chase
with an impeccable conclusion and lifted chin.
About sex, Auntie Hannah said it was overrated
but like orthodonture, must be gone through
for a girl to accomplish full maturity and polish,
like a trip to take in Rome and the Eifel Tower;
but romance, she thought quite fun and likely worth
stringing out as long as possible with a good sport
from a solid family, who was not a bounder.
When she was gone, you felt the rushing vacuum
and the teetering empty space, as when a train
screeched away into the blackness of the tunnel
at the Park Street T, leaving you on the platform
suddenly unsure of where you were going next.