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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 3, September 2018
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Hazel Hall
Canberra, ACT, Australia


Violets and Vinegar

Our great aunt comes from the most noble profession a woman can pursue. She keeps her few tools of trade by the front door.

available
at every beck and call
day and night—
something sombre
about her patients

My mother says she's a "kindly soul." One I'm expected to kiss in greeting and farewell. Hawklike features, hair knotted tightly, spectacles, and those tufts on her chin. After a visit, she always demands that any remaining cakes or scones be wrapped in brown paper, tied with string, and finished with a neat carrying loop.

pasted paper
holds her Christmas message
with care
I remove the overlay
take a peep beneath

Mother fusses around Vi, a name our great aunt hates. Don't call me Vi, she says. Call me Modest Violet. I think of a poem of that name and wonder: what hides behind all her determination?

A clandestine mythology hovers around her. Left a lonely spinster after the marriages of two sisters, Vi takes the position of lady's companion to Beryl, whose husband, Walter, is absent from home for long periods.

Later, my mother confides that Beryl is "small and delicate."

a welcome home
the marriage bed
dressed in pink chinz—
another outline
beside his sleeping wife

After Beryl's death, Vi, mindful of gossip, marries the widower but eventually finds herself on her own again. She inherits a comfortable house, a healthy bank balance, and the respect due a widow of senior years.

After her death, Vi is buried in the same plot as Beryl and Walter. She leaves our cash-strapped family a generous inheritance. Mother plants a tiny garden around the grave and visits it regularly.

a vignette
in its antique frame
an open door . . .
whiffs of verbena
violets and vinegar

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