Shorty – Wendy Klein


Aunt Paula wore the highest stilettos she could buy,
would risk a broken neck to look as tall

as her sister, Lee. Aunt Paula piled her meagre black hair
into a chignon the size of a giant cep, her face

the shape of a wizened heart from living on black tea
and Pall Malls, ate little but half-raw meat,

hard-boiled eggs, grapefruit. Aunt Paula exercised each day
by vacuuming her house from top to bottom,

accompanied by her blind Cairn terrier, Shorty, who’d bitten
everyone but Grandmother. Aunt Paula dug her garden

with manic intensity, planted baby-tears moss between
the blocks of crazy paving she’d put in place

with her own green fingers. Nights, her foot pressed
down the damper of the second-hand upright

as she fought insomnia with Civil War Songs:
When Johnny comes marching home again.

She slipped away through the screen door at 45 – lean
as wire, will o’ the wisp. Her heart, they said.

Wendy Klein has 3 collections: ‘Cuba in the Blood’ and ‘Anything in Turquoise’ (2009, 20013, Cinnamon Press), ‘Mood Indigo’ ( 2016, Oversteps), and a selected ‘Into the Blue’, High Window Press (2019).  An illustrated film of her recent pamphlet, ‘Let Battle Commence’ appears on You-tube

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