Something was up when Aunt Ann came.
My mother scrubbed the floors until they bled.
She washed up all the curtains
and starched my dress to death,
you never saw such fear in all your life.
My sister who understood everything
said, go find your white gloves,
Aunt Ann is taking you to tea.
Aunt Alba said, here’s what you need to know:
Anastasia now lives in the Back Bay
she used to be Italian just like us
until she caught your uncle, Dr. Lou,
now she has pretensions to the throne.
What throne, I asked. Aunt Lola roared,
Christ, do we know! go brush your teeth!
They stood in the front doorway when I left,
waving as if I’d never come back home.
I think we’ll do some music first, Aunt said.
She drove far away to Boston in the gloom
to Isabella Gardner on the Fens.
We walked in echoing steps on cold, red stone;
my luck got worse when I saw the band.
Nothing but five men with violins.
This is a quintet, Aunt said, now fold your hands.
I stayed quiet till we neared the end
and something came up unexpectedly,
when that one with the largest violin
violently began to shake his head.
He couldn’t help it, there was nothing he could do,
his hands god knows were busy with the bow;
his hair was flying like a crazy bat
no sooner landing on his head when it took off!
Then without meaning to, I laughed.
I laughed and laughed and laughed, until
icy hands forced me to the outside world.
I shouldn’t buy you cocoa after this,
hissed Aunt Ann, giving me a shake.
But suddenly she changed her mind
as if she knew the reason I had come.
At Schrafft’s she let me take off my white gloves.
There’s more to life than being safe at home,
instructed Aunt Ann through her steaming tea
You mean you won’t come take me out again?
I asked, licking up the last of my whipped cream.
Now what would your poor mother say,
Aunt sighed, and I said, Mother always says, we’ll see.