Is a curious old bird.

She serves cold tea and stale cakes.

Observing her guests intently,

she watches us sip, chew and swallow

before ever taking any for herself.


Her decks are quite worn

nearly useless for playing,

but we deal dutifully,

fanning the faded, faceless cards

in our small hands,

wincing as she cackles again about

hearts always being trumps.


That’s not the rule at all,

but we dare not contradict

or else she will be cross and

mutter into the collection

of red porcelain roses at her elbow

that we should be glad she is able to

keep her temper,

unlike some others she knows.


Her husband disappeared,

lured away like the tide, she says,

by the lady in the moon.

So she vaguely expects

him back some time or another

or as soon as the moon lady grows

tired of washing his socks.


Her children are gone too,

but she laughs when she speaks of them,

saying she will join them soon to play—underground.


Her vicious ancient Tom, one-eyed

And battle scarred, slinks into the room,

He bares his teeth in a hiss before disappearing

Behind the chintz curtains,

his presence an invisible malevolence in the room.


She waves from the doorway

as we, relieved to be away from her,

hurry off to play, never minding

her warnings against haberdashers,

rabbits and taking naps along the riverbank.