to Auntie Dorothy

She was the postcard, then the sea
that we competed to be the first to see.
Yet we found her half-way up
the scrubbed doorsteps of Belle Vue Street,
plump from the padding of our future treats.

Her skin, scented with carbolic soap,
hung like an overall printed that fortnight
with our tickets for shows: Harry Corbett
and Sooty, Alma Cogan, Punch and Judy.

In the open-air theatre of Peasholm Park,
she was the actress that put on the dark
to turn it light, and give us parts
in every major scene on the watersplash,
the miniature train. She pulled cash

from her sleeves for goes on swingboats,
chairoplanes. As heads in curlers and mops
shook from windows, we skipped in her jollity,
swapped rhymes with kids on the street.

For hide and seek she brought in the sea mist –
then pushed it back; on the hit list
for coronary disease. The archetypal aunt
everyone requires. How we holidayed
in the stasis of her presence, yet stayed

with her, as adults, only twice – out of touch
because unable to endure our image of her
to grow up. The funeral can’t have been true.
We sent no wreath as mourners should do,

just looked up at her popgun shooting the stars.
Too innocent to die, she never went quite as far
as abroad. And still she remains to spin
candyfloss around our sighs. Raised high
as Anne Brontë buried in the castle nearby,

she waves its flag over Belle Vue Street,
all summers made good. Flecked with spray,
the horizon’s taut bow plays the Spring tide
of the sunniest person in our childhood.


Patricia McCarthy is half Irish and half English. Her collection, Rodin’s Shadow, was published in 2012 by Clutag Press/Agenda Editions. Horses Between Our Legs, headed by her poem which won the National Poetry Competition, 2013, was published in 2014. Letters to Akhmatova has been published recently. She is the editor of Agenda poetry journal

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