Sandra Noel

The Bells bottle

Ruby stares at the layers of copper, 
recalls the first glassy jingle 
when Alf’s change hit the bottom.

Her job in the bar, every spare 
and not spare penny, the slow rise
month by month, only the war years missing.

The time he borrowed two shillings 
and sixpence, lost the lot on a bet.
How guilty she still felt for being mad.

Ruby plinks the final few in the neck of the bottle.
She picks up her lover’s last photo,
studies the glint in his eyes.

A hankie-wipe of tears from the glass, 
Ruby places Alf’s army smile 
back on the sideboard. 

Together till it’s full, she says to the air.

Afternoon jam   

Aunty’s hawk eyes miss nothing.
So it’s you that got it, she says. 

I take Gran’s silver jam spoon from the drawer,
rub its misshapen contours in the way of Gran’s thumb, 
recall how she said the dents signified living.

Aunty tells of the time they made jam
for twelve hours straight: 
blackberry, redcurrant, quince — 
jars cooling in ranks on floor tiles. 

She waves the spoon at me, says,
Your Gran was stirring her tea when she heard — 
her Albert, missing in action.  

There’s a trolley aiming at my legs in the rosé section 

The woman tells me the top left bottle is the one,
hints of ocean, the best sunrise, 
underlying notes of mermaid.  

I flamingo stand, watch her trolley veer 
into a loo roll mountain. 
She’s unaware, until the crash.

Paper rolls cascade into a newspaper stand.
Images of Prince Harry kaleidoscope the floor, 
the woman disappears. 

A guy is shuffling magazines at my feet.
I ask him to reach the bottle, 
wish we could share it.

Flights, Issue Eight, March 2023