The Elder by Ester Levinrad

POEM: The Elder

A poem by Ester Levinrad

BY ESTER LEVINRAD

In memory of my great-grandmother

Marbled rolled beef, veined with crushed peppers,
Raw onions:
Bitter foods.
And you, the elder on those streets
By bus or bicycle
In your furs, hats, and good jewellery;
Our link, our line, our right of passage, of possession:
A scrabbling tribe from furthermost south.
Our English names, our foreign longings,
But you, the matriarch, at home.

An aperitif in the Nordic gloom:
Strong liquor in small glasses.
The lure of the evening news,
The latest royal scandal
Fed on butter and dark rye.
And you pronounced on all you saw:
The son’s weakness. His upright wife, innocence.
Our dramas, or the Queen’s.
Earl Grey tea, subtle fragrance in thin cups,
Served with sugar-cubes, milk, or lemon.
But coffee in a flask, the bitter edge,
Always at hand.

Glass bottles of Martini, schnapps, Ribena for the children;
Pastries sliced half-ways.
Or cheese soufflé, spiced frikkadels:
You’d learnt foreign ways,
Walked the kasbahs, and the Bo-Kaap.
Good shoes could take you anywhere,
But gloves were “too affected”.
A leather cigarette case, sheepskin slippers,
A box of snapshots from Morocco
With one of you, in silhouette.
An amber ring worn through:
Auf wiedersehen, adieu, adieu.

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