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.