Dorcas Thornberry,
stooped with age and arthritis
shrank from the pick-pocket
fingers of mortality
into monochrome memories
locked behind the gilt clasps
of the heirloom family bible.
She unfolded a yellowing cutting
A  Daily Mirror from forty-seven.
Italian prisoners of war
embarking on repatriation day.
Some cheering and waving berets,
others crestfallen – they were the minority.
Toto was not in that departure
but Dorcas imagined him dockside
and pictured him sad to be leaving.
Salvatore declared himself ‘tired of war’ –
worked as an odd job man
a  ‘co-operator’
tending the graveyard
scything verges
nurturing flowers  – Rosa Sericea
singing arias.
Dorcas took cold tea in a bottle,
grease-proof wrapped
 doorstep sandwiches,
spied behind headstones
and daydreamed girlish dreams.
Toto blew the signorina
a secret kiss
as he helped her father
with wallpaper pasting
in the front parlour.
His Non Ti Scordar Di Me
Lit the flame of a teenage crush.
He packed his bag for Italy
kissed Dorcas surreptitiously,
passed her keep-sake roses
and whispered,
 “Arrivederci, bella, bella, bellisima, 
press these to your heart.
I will come back from Sorrento
to make you my bride.”
Dorcas never saw her baby,
never put it to her breast
Her olive skin new-born
was handed to an ‘auntie’.
The bastard was forgotten.
Dorcas Thornberry
lifted a delicate Rosa
from the pages of Esther
kissed it lightly
and plucking a petal,
then another, recited,
“He loved me…he loved me not…
He loved me…he loved me not…”
Trust Toto to grow four petalled roses
Dorcas Thornberry
sipped tea from a bone china cup
and glanced around the sitting room
at pictures framed upon the wall;
Billy, Terry, David (lost at sea),
Winnie, Lottie and baby Harry,
I hope they visit for Christmas…
or if they’re not too busy
at least pop in on Boxing Day…
I’ve not seen them since last July
Harry must be walking by now.
It can’t be easy raising a family these days.
They do have the car but petrol is so dear…
They used to send me a card –
with a ten pound note but
only managed five last year.
Mustn’t grumble, times are hard
at least they care,
and money doesn’t grow on trees… 
      …We have to tighten our belts… 
            … just like in the war… 
                        … I wonder what became of… Toto… 
Dorcas Thornberry
looked to the high shelving
displaying her prized collection
of ‘Maison de Beaux Arts’
Royal Dalton style plates and figurines.
The catalogue described the porcelain as,
 ‘a superb investment opportunity’.
It’s going to be worth a fortune one day
the money will put Harry through university,
and there’s the family bible,
if nobody wants to keep it
they can always sell it,
it’s bound to fetch a pretty penny.
Dorcas Thornberry
gently raised the last Sericea
from out of the book of Esther
gazed at the pictures on the wall
plucked one petal… then another,
“They love me not…they love me… they love me not…”



© coolhermit 2023
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