Just a scattering, a row or two of mourners,
nurses and carers, is in the crematorium,
as the very old lady’s passing is noted.
We know just a little about her life.
She’d been a country girl, in the orchards,
in health and growth. And then in service
in a Shropshire manor, first a parlourmaid,
then a housekeeper, domestic dignitary.
Somehow to college though, stenography,
a post-war typist in a London ministry.
Later her one boy friend (she was vague on this),
a feverish kind of fun, clogging with alcohol.
Rehab, then another surge, and to Scotland,
junior admin, poll tax and public spite.
Retirement was a release, South again,
and, for a joyous while, the neighbours,
their boy and girl (both in Canada now)
who called her Auntie.
The move to a cottage in Pembrokeshire
brought immersion again in fields
and green and trees. Brought too infirmity,
the final passage to the nursing home.
Now March’s sleet tickles the roof and doors
of the crematorium. And history’s girl leaves us,
in a respectful hush, behind the closing curtains.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet, sometime creative writing tutor at Trinity College, Carmarthen, living a little way down the coast from Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse. He has published widely and in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2020.