Mslexia, the magazine for women who write | www.mslexia.co.uk
From Issue 48
Aunt Lacey runs in the family, like the blue birthmark
and the red hair. She practises smoking
behind the hay barn, coughing madly,
until she can inhale. She cloaks the smell
with perfume from the cut-glass bottle
with the puff-ball atomizer. Mother has a fit –
'That's French, from before the war!'
'Ooh la la,' says Lacey. 'Ooh la la.'
I sit on the edge of her bed while she pulls on
seamed stockings. She gives me a kiss and a wink
and says, 'Don't wait up.' But I wake in the dark
when she tiptoes upstairs, even if she takes
her shoes off. From his bed Father grumbles
until Mother tells him to hush.
Sometimes, she bakes us apples, first peeling them
round and round, then looking for the name of her true love
in the strands. 'Never mind,' she sighs,
and lets me do the sugar. We eat the apples
when they are still too hot, and burn our tongues.
What else can run in a family? I dyed my red hair,
but kept the postcards she sent as a WAAC
from Paris. At first they arrived twice a month, then once,
then stopped. For years, when I thought of Paris
she lurked in its corners, smoking in cafés
or standing hatless near the Eiffel Tower.
I asked the family what happened. Nobody knows.
The WAACs don't know, the French don't know.
I fear I've dreamed her, and one day
I bury the postcards behind the old hay barn.
I bake apples and burn them. My daughters
are born, and I watch them constantly.
JEANNETTE COOK, 43, is an office manager for the Stop Aids Alliance in Brussels. Her work has appeared in Mslexia before and a reading of one of her poems can be found on YouTube. Her wildest ambition is to front a big band, singing Great American Songbook standards like ‘I’ve Got the World on a String’. Walking and talking with other writers are two of the many things that help her writing; her Moleskine notebook also helps.
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