Aunt Lucrezia



Yes. Such were the eyes through which in rage and pain

Coiled the spent zodiac of her spirit;

And skin that tarnished where a finger rubbed it,

And jewelled boneless hand that stroked a ferret.


And mark the enamelled mouth, the ears laid back

Bitch-like against a head whose pride appalled

(Despite the coiffeur’s art) my uncles most of all:

The head beneath the wig rose clear and bald.


The approving eye unerringly alights

On formal trees as fine as maidenhair,

Takes in a tower, moves upwards to interrogate

A hawk and pigeon circling in the air


Behind her. A day as lucid as the brows

For which ironic loves expend their breath,

Brandy behind their ears, brandy on their breath —

O subtle miniaturist in violent death!


— As I remarked, the head was bald … as glass,

And was especially odious to my uncles

To whom all forms of glass breathed and were evil;

The eye inhales the jug, dilates and rankles


Where Lucrezia’s hand, boneless as a mollusc,

Slips in a phial, winks, and disappears,

As do my uncles and all their heirs …

The jewelled hands play with the ferret’s ears.


By Alistair Te Ariki Campbell