My aunt, Olive, was a vocal proponent
of the Stiff Upper Lip,
of “staring the world straight
in the face and showing it
what you are made of”;
no droop, no downcast gaze
no – never –
an admission of regret.

It was ”eyes front”,
anything behind
if ghosts followed:
the translucent shades of uncle’s
casual infidelities,
a phantom of the bankruptcy
so painstakingly buried,
the tiny spectre of their stillborn son,
if these things stalked her
she would rather not see.

She sat in front
in the chapel of rest.
Rigid, facing forward,
she listened to her children
eulogise their father.
Seeming unbowed, she watched
the minister’s bald spot
as he led prayers.
Because she never looked
over her shoulder,
nobody could have expected
her to turn, as she did,
to salt, to crumble.

Part of the Anatomy Project