Cleaning The Brasses

You'd bring out Brasso
Spread newspapers: Dad to apply,
Us to polish. Candlesticks,
Copper kettle, easy teapot,
Bells, bowls, great plaques that rang
When struck by a working rag:
Years of such afternoons white
Between the picture's embossed lines and curves.
Rank in our nostrils the stink of metal polish
And black transferring from brass to hands.

These adorners of your fireplaces
Claimed by relatives. I remember
The day you gave up polishing,
Wrapped them in newspaper, begging us
To have them. We had other plans,
No time to spend afternoons
Changing tarnish into burnish.

Why then did I take candlesticks,
Two pairs, one tall,one squat?
To show me again you sitting back on heels
Admiring brass beaded with light
Glint in the darkening room.