Betty

52
I

her grave

white as the pillow she rests on
she can no longer hear
but still we tell her how we regret
not ever saying that we loved her

soon she will be in the ground
in the grave she shares with our mother
a proper place for two who lived
so much of their lives together

it’s a grave that few will visit
a plaque set in a lawn
I look on it and understand
it’s our own lives that we mourn

1I
the big girls

Betty was one of the big girls
in the desks at the back of the room
side-of -mouthing to one another
in the dusty rays of the afternoon

arms folded they walked three abreast
with us lads a few steps behind
we angled to look up their skirts
knowing they really didn’t mind

she was basketball’s goal shooter
being tall robust and intimidating
as she balanced to shoot for goal
she could almost reach the ring

III
girl about town 

mother gave us what little she could
but Betty wanted money of her own
so she left school to work in an office
and shopped at the best spots in town

she was two years older than me
I always supposed she would marry
instead she stayed with our mother
and for our children became a golden aunty

for many years we holidayed together
camping or in rented seaside houses
and when those times drifted away
we’d take her on shorter outings 

 IV
her house

Betty lived with our mother
in a house close to ours
ageing we drew closer together
as grandchildren peopled the years 

when our mother died
Betty realized her desire
a modern house of her own
in which she could gracefully retire

the house mixed the new and the treasured
for she furnished it with mother’s things
sideboard dining table chairs and
the lounge suite with refurbished springs

we  have lately planted a garden
before the house that graced her days
we still call it Betty’s house
as though she’d never gone away

V
her death

as darkness spread over her world
we told her of times together
reported the world outside
touched her colding forehead

lay hands upon hers that were folded
ready to hold a last flower
we were glad she had so many visitors
glad she seemed not to suffer

we saw that she was loved
and  came to regret all the more
that for all our talk in those days
we hadn’t said we loved her

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