Long ago, longer than most people will have the age to remember, an old woman span by the burnt-out hearth.
Amsterdam smudged itself in the winter months, as if beneath a great grey grease, burying away her secrets in the burrows of merchants and housemaids. The windows would be licked with snow and the wide roof of every house would heave with their burden. And inside such a house, my great aunt span.
She would take each frantic fibre and grace it twixt her silent fingers, bending and shaping it around her wheel. And say nothing, nothing through all the chatter and clatter of kitchen whispering, wild stories and the hearts broken and burnt to ash. She would spin.
And spring would come, the gutters sprung with the last of the snows fleeing the earth, the streets loud with the rumble of new goods and restless horses, the trees cautiously producing fragile buds from sleeping wood. And my aunt would barely look up from her window, for my great aunt span.
And the servants would gossip as they wrung out the sheets, of the madness of my aunt for her endless spinning. The cook would scold them and say she was grieving. And they were silent before my face at the door. But still, my aunt span.
Summer cracked each brick with dull umber light, and made rich the long nights of revellers and lovers. They made love and war in the taverns and coffee houses, singing in the hot light with the removal of shawls. But my aunt would still spin her wool, however burnt red the skin of her companions. For my aunt span.
And with her spinning so span the mystery, keen to my mind as I stoned the plums, peaches. They said she had a soldier lover, long ago, before spinning, and that he was gone, and she never stopped.
My aunt died in autumn, in my eighth year, sank hollow and dry with the leaves as they fell, wet with the cough of a failing old woman. She could no longer spin, her fingers spent, but her mind span away behind silent sad lips. They say she passed by the fire, watching the window, wrapped in the white shawl they buried her in.
When she was gone, still she span in her chair by the burnt out hearth, the sound of her wheel seeping through each night. Sometimes on a long winter evenings we would see her shadow fall where she had sat, long, long after her figure had left it.
They pulled down the house after the last war, damaged by fire and ill memory. Weeds fill the cavernous hole where it stood, the wood and plaster decaying to the earth. But still, sometimes on the silence of a summer day, I can hear my aunt spinning.