Not quite secured inside the wardrobe door

by tape that flakes like old skin at the touch,

policy numbers, bank accounts: her life.

We tread like chapel’s muted steps,

perplexed by our reverence

for a red rafia lampshade; button-hooks in a toffee-tin;

the rim of a brandy flask cherry-kissed stark as tulips;

the unrocking chair.

In the hems of curtains she’s sewn half-crowns

to weigh them straight. Drawers

spill her Kodak slides, blazing, a blare

of hats, maiden smiles and Ena Harkness.

Her kitchen smells of memory: gas, tin,

carbolic, fat burned off the grill. There

cowled under a tea-towel, we lift the plate

thrust up like a prize by a Sheffield steel

1920s deco dancer: ta daa!

just as she once had thought she might have been.

She’d marked each climax of our childhood years:

drifted with icing, brandy, candied peel,

her marzipan sweet as sucking your thumb,

crushed into cake-flesh. Around this cold chimney

we’ve picked over sacrificial crumbs:

a family altar by a twilight fire.

Untouched in the pantry,

December sunlight steps on golden bottles,

sculpting dust to dance like the exhaling of a bag of flour.

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