Impression – Jonti Marks

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There’s a musty air around 
Tonight’s dinner guest.
She’s very old
But her dark-dyed hair
Belies it.
Her lipstick is too red for her
Pale, wrinkled cheeks;
Her chin sags and wobbles faintly
As she smokes a nervous cigarette.

It’s as if she comes from another world
And her gaze is there, 
Not with us.
Not with me, the shy child who offers her crisps;
Not with my parents, who invited her – 
This alien friend of a friend.
There’s moisture around the corners of her eyes
Where the eyelids have loosened with age.
A gob of mascara sticks there,

Floating in unwept tears.

Looking back,
She seemed so strange to me.
I was frightened by her distance,
Her otherness, 
The sadness that oozed from her dark pores,
Into the strangled silences of that long
Sombre evening.

My parents were kind,
Solicitous,
Treating her like a fragile vase
Or a convalescing aunt
And, when she’d gone,
There were looks and quiet words
But I was excluded,
Then kissed and sent to bed.

It was years before I understood 
The meaning of the numbers
On her arm.

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