Today is the launch of Emma Press's latest anthology - the Anthology of Aunts (apparently Aunthology was one of the titles facetiously suggested!) It's being launched at a poetry party at the Star of Kings, Kings Cross, from 7pm to 9pm. I was supposed to be one of the readers, but have been forced to drop out for personal reasons. Which is a pity - it's going to be a fantastic event. I've only had a glimpse, through the Emma Press blog, of the contents of the anthology but they seem as varied and fascinating as you'd expect from this innovative poetry press. Some of the poets have been writing prose pieces on the blog, with photographs, about the aunts they either loved or hated, or sometimes about the experience of just being an aunt. My contribution is about my Aunt Hilda, who was really a great aunt in a big extended family where the 'greats' were sometimes younger than my parents.
Aunt Hilda was a packer at the biscuit works,
sorting the custard creams and plain digestives,
bringing us bags of crumbed fragments
that tasted of each other, dipped in a hot brew.
The teapot was glazed with tannin inside
and out, its bitter tang offset with reject pink-
iced fancies. When Hilda cuddled me, I wriggled
free from the tight press of her arms and the need
I sensed at five or six but couldn’t name. I told
my mother that I loathed the odour of vanilla.
Hilda was late-married to my uncle Fred, a nervy
mother’s boy marched to the church door – we were
told – by brothers of the bride he never made
a wife. She wept daily at her sister’s kitchen table;
broke open on the bus to Blackpool screaming
that God would make her pregnant with the child
she longed for. Sectioned to the Bedlam
we were all afraid of, bare rooms that stank of urine
and singed hair, Hilda, shocked into sanity but altered,
walked with us in the garden, quiet with blank eyes.
Fred was obsessed with cleanliness, feared
germs, contamination; wouldn’t shake your hand.
And when he sickened like a child she fed him
with a spoon, nursed him, washed his clothes,
winding him into the sheet she hoped
would be his last. She found release among
the company of women on the packing line,
fattened on that sweet diet, smelling of chocolate
and vanilla, consuming the crumbs, never the whole thing.
Copyright, Kathleen Jones, 2017
From The Anthology of Aunts, Emma Press, 2017
If you'd like to buy a copy you can get one from Emma Press on the link above, or purchase from Amazon.