A Very Northern Inheritance
by Linda Burnett
An agony of worker aunts
passed martyrdom along the female line.
Each rivulet of steam and sweat,
reamed achingly from unsung toil,
puddled in the gene pool of the North.
Eyes halfway to heaven,
anchored by a hyphenated mouth, traced
blueprints for our own, once
old enough to wield a pan and brush
or scrub a doorstep with a donkey stone.
We strained to extricate ourselves
from loops of brooding drudgery without a word
of note or thanks, though tripped,
not on the chores but on resentment,
rimed in every far from noble pore.
We edged away, eager to shelve
the matriarchal code and frame a compact
of shared responsibility.
But, pulsing under Christmas bakes
and beautifully turned-out kids,
a vein of bitterness still sulks,
ready to suck the joy from balancing the bricks
on an impossibly stacked hod
without collapse. A niggle of rancour,
curdling the blood, leeches
the unfairness of our role.
We carry on as we were shown, destined
to bear the brunt. Unbidden
we polish off our tasks with sighs, and join
vexed martyrs on the distaff side.
This is one of the poems from Release a Rage of Red, the latest Bread and Roses anthology, available here.