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My mother's mouth was not strawberries

but crushed beetles, crimson with its hint of darkness,

the centre of women whispering at tea-parties.

When she entered a room, the men fell silent:

the spit of Greta Garbo, pencilled eyebrows, a bob.

Her Blitz was cartwheeling on tables at the Ritz.

On her fourth marriage, she never left the house

without putting on a face. She wore scarlet

at her brother's funeral. 'He loved me in this dress.'

The brother who'd shared their childhood, orphaned,

passed from relative to relative. After her funeral,

clearing out her dressing-table, I found,

dabbed on a tissue, her broken, faded kiss.

By Stephanie Green

First published in ‘Sound of an Iceberg: New Writing Scotland 37’ (ASLS, University of Glasgow, 2019)