Dolling up Grand Aunt Mary

When she came
we painted her eyes
with shadows.
We pinched her cheeks
until they ripened,
and slicked on a clown smile
with a bright honeyed stick.

We wove black ribbons
through her grey red hair,
and sharpened her nails
with the roughest emery.
We draped feathers around that
withering neck
and told her she looked like a film star
from the forties.

She endured our ministrations
with tight lipped patience.
Too gracious to grumble,
too refined to complain.
Afterwards she’d nibble biscuits
and sip sweet tea
through the cockles of her
clown mouth.
Then, wiping crumbs away, would say
‘Now children, go and play.

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