༺ bucket ༻

Lally & Tom

Aunty Lally was a star
she had been one of those boat pushers
on the big maps
in the war room
second world war that is

in the old black & white movies
those model boat pushers
are all young and sexy women
in uniforms
with those boxy caps
with black peaks

Uncle Tom took a shine to her
and said he’d marry her
straight off
so the family story goes

I’d see them periodically
as I grew up
I loved Big Tom’s pipe smoke smell
and Aunty Lally’s exotic red lipstick

they were filled with secrets
of the Bletchley Park sort
or so I imagined
all Douglas Bader
and derring do
also the terrible umbra
of tragedy
haunted from the shadows
Johnny their son
had died
crashing a mini
like Mark Bolan

when Big Tom died
he was buried near his son
as we left the cemetery
the guys were ready
with a gravestone
I asked to have a look
leaning over the flat-bed trailer
I read
“He danced the sky
On laughter silvered wings” (*)
he had been a real life pilot

years later
at another Uncle’s house party
Lall plied me with gin
“I do like a young man”
she kept saying
an old lady
with the same red lipstick
mixed with coke
it all seemed like fun
until I got violently
and very publicly

I’m so happy I knew them
and I hope they knew
how much I loved them

it was long after
they’d both gone
I suddenly noticed
the spelling of my name “Hugh”
how odd

at last I realised
why Tom had always called me
“Hoo, How or Huff”

(*NB: High Flight)

Aunty Lally
Aunty Lally
Tom, Lally, Jonny, little Tom, Dick, Andy
Tom, Lally, Jonny, little Tom, Dick, Andy
HC: 2023