prosetry

A Brief History Of Tea

I used to resent making my father cups of tea. “Why can’t you just make it yourself?” He’d just stare at me until I skulked off to the kitchen, dragging my feet, banging the mug down on the counter, slamming the fridge door. A simple task but apparently asking too much of me.


When I was a teenager, a cup of tea and a spliff was the only way to start the day. Life could not move forward until tea had been consumed. Tea first, life second. Get your priorities straight, girl. Always tea first. Always tea. Always.


My first poem published in print was about a young girl who was addicted to tea and died as a result of her dependence on caffeine mixed with a disgusting amount of sugar. Addiction, death and tea: a portrait of my family. Nobody knew at the time that this morbid poem, written and published when I was 10 years old, was the start of my career writing depressing poetry.


All these years and you still don’t know how I take my tea.


When I was 16 I went to the dark side. Depression and psychosis were killing me from the inside out. Feeling so exhausted from the fight and zombie-like thanks to citalopram, while also knowing that I needed to do every single crazy thing my mind was telling me do, I found myself trying to find energy from any possible source. Crushed caffeine pills mixed in rum and gumming speed wasn’t enough so I decided to start drinking coffee.

I’d always said that I hated the taste of coffee but in truth, I had never tried it. I had a pal who’d dropped out of school and starting working in this failing coffee shop. I’d pop in to see him and down espressos until either my hands were shaking too much or they’d stopped shaking altogether, then rush off to do whatever mad thing my brain told me was imperative to do next. “If you don’t run 8 miles to this specific postbox and kick it with all your might using your left foot, your dad is going to die. Tick tock.”

I still don’t even know if I like the taste, but nowadays coffee seems more vital to my existence than tea. This somehow seems sinful, anti-British, maybe even anti-Dad. Father said that he drank a coffee in Rome in the 90s and it was crazy-expensive. He never drank a coffee again and never understood why I did.


Sometimes, when he was too ill to speak,
he would make a letter T shape
with his hands. That meant, “Tea, please.”


My first suicide attempt. Brother said We need to get her to hospital, I’m calling 999. Mother said Absolutely not, and confiscated the telephone. I was put on the sofa. I remember my head hanging over the edge, upside down, and my left arm lolling with it, my hand near the carpet. My organs were in my mouth. Mother said Drink this tea. I can’t speak I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t keep my eyes open. Mother is ironing and watching Desperate Housewives while I am dying behind her. When I was conscious I could see the cup of tea on the floor by where my hands were hanging. When my eyes rolled back into my head they retained the image of the tea. Dark green mug, white leaves, flecks of gold. I couldn’t move to get it. When I was unconscious for too long, Mother poured cold water on me. Drink your tea, she said. Brother was not allowed in the room. I drifted, in and out, mostly out. The tea went undrunk. Eventually my whole body slipped off the sofa. I came to, drenched, lying on the floor, to the sound of Mother shouting at me and my brother crying in the hallway. I had wasted a valuable cup of tea. I slept for 3 days.


Me + D @ university:
Tetley when our student loans dropped.

Green tea when studying, using the same teabag 3 or 4 times.
With lemon if I’d managed to swipe one from Tesco.
Chamomile when we were depressed or had period pains.
Hot water when we were skint.


We never had coffee at home (too expensive). Running out of tea caused the entire household to fall apart. Mother had black tea. Brother and I had milk and 2 sugars. Father drank several cups in the morning while waiting for the pub to open. We learned to fear the empty PG Tips box. Life simply could not go on without tea. A frantic scrambling for loose change and sending one of the kids running down to Mr Shah’s would follow. Then the parents would get their tea and the order that existed in our household (albeit a very low level of order) would return.

I was glad when father drank tea. It was better than when he drank beer.

I was glad when mother drank tea. It meant that she would take a minute to calm down and wouldn’t be so angry for a while.


Today, I am the queen of tea-making. I remember how everybody takes theirs and make them perfectly to their individual specifications. I like seeing their faces when they take the mug and peer in, nod in approval, take a sip and say, “Corrrrr, that’s a lovely cuppa tea, that is,” and they are simply happy. It’s so British it hurts.


When I began making cups of tea for my father I was about 4.

Too tiny to reach the kitchen counter, let alone the kettle. Had to drag the red plastic step over and climb on it. If there was too much water in the kettle it was too heavy to hold so I’d tip it over into the sink and refill it with just enough for a cup.

Four heaped teaspoons of sugar. PG Tips pyramid bag. Careful, careful with the hot water. Let it brew for the correct amount of time. Add a little milk (blue top). It had to be a certain colour, the tea, a very particular shade of beige. Stir stir stir so that the sugar doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the mug. That mug. It was huge. You used that mug for over 20 years. I don’t know where it is now but I hope that someone has it.

Careful, careful with dragging the mug over to the edge of the counter. Step off the step, carefully. Two tiny hot hands carrying the mug over to Daddy. “Thank you, princess.” Sometimes a critique. “A little too much milk in this one, babe,” or “Did you put sugar in this or is it all at the bottom?” or if I had spilled a bit on the journey, he’d describe the tea as being “low tide.”


I knew his mind was gone when he wouldn’t drink his tea.


Something awful happens. Make a cup of tea.

Something needs to be sorted out. Let’s all sit down and have a nice cup of tea.

Someone dies. For god’s sake, get that kettle on.

A lovely catch up with an old friend. Tea and biccies.

Bad news. Cuppa char. Good news. Celebratory cuppa.

Big news. Make the tea first then tell us all about it.

Sad news. Sit in silence holding onto your mug of tea for warmth and comfort.

New roommate, new neighbour, new colleague, new boss. Bond over a cup of tea.

Hangover. Drag yourself to the caff for a fry up and a mug of builders tea.

Hungry but dinner is ready in an hour. Have a cheeky cup of tea.

Visiting nan and granddad. Call them when you’re 5 minutes away so they can get the mugs out and the kettle boiled.

Work break. Tea and a quick smoke outside.

In hospital. Complain about the weak tea and get friendly with the nurse so she gives you extra milk and sugar.

Foreign country. Do you have any English tea?

Visiting friends abroad. Bring a box of Twinings Breakfast tea as a gift but drink it all yourself during your stay.

Break-up. How about a lovely cup of tea and a slice of cake?

Freezing cold. A cuppa will sort you out.

Heatwave. I don’t care, get that kettle on.

When in doubt: TEA.


After your abortion I didn’t know what to do
so I just made you a cup of tea and held you
while you cried.


The only words that father learnt in Polish (my mother’s language) were kochana and herbata. “Darling” and “tea.” All he ever needed.


Daddy used to write in my birthday cards,
“I love you more than all the tea in China.”
That’s a lot of tea and a lot of love.


I used to resent making my father cups of tea but now I would love nothing more than to hear him say, “Lal, stick the kettle on and make us a cuppa, would ya?” And I would. Happily. So happily.

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Burning without fire

close up photo of red candles

Photo by Aloïs Moubax on Pexels.com

Last night I scalded myself Mama and as the boiling water ran down my arm

I saw you through the pain and you were smiling and everything was wrong

how you are alive and yet gone, how you exist and yet don’t, how I was never right

and somehow always mistaken

If I don’t come from you then who? My mitochondrial existence and all the women before us

seem to pass into memory and then detached, by our severing

every day I wake and I think of you and then I remember

you’re not thinking of me

What tenderized my heart so? Pounding it until it cried out

I know it’s futile and still I yearn

What compelled it to continue beating even after the obvious?

I loathe that about myself and I love that about myself

I am like a ship in a bottle, you cannot figure out how I came to be

full and whole, encased in glass and yet

I am neither full nor whole, but hungry and drowning

a featherweight, a word, something you created and then said

no you can take it back, I don’t want it any more

(I never did / I pretended / it was the mask of a mask in a mask)

and so I went far and nowhere

near and not close

wondering what will come first? The last loss of you, or the first diminishment of

my eternal want?

Who am I kidding? With endings there remain

more scabs to pick off, prayerful knees and bowed heads

no amount could achieve

forgiveness or whatever it is I need to be to

change everything that cannot be changed

so I watch myself and you

I watch nothing and no one

empty their expressionless pockets into water

watch the colors of us turn dark and indistinguishable

as if we’d never been and I am not sure

where or who I am without you

like a glass blower who stands on the quayside

wondering if

the boats will come today

marking the horizon with their

dusky forms

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art, prosetry

Mind Full -ness

There it goes, her life, into the fire. Pages baptised with teenaged tears, up in flames. Overdue relief induced by finally facing up to the formulae of her fucked-up family. All of those secrets, shredded and scattered upon a stack of sticks. Her old self no longer sits on her chest, swinging her legs. Instead, she indulged in a long soak in a bath filled with petrol and quickly succumbed to the allure of asphyxia, choked by the black smoke of hundreds of burning memories. Her current self finds that she can suddenly breathe. The air is sweet. But it’s not over yet. She knows what she must do next but doesn’t know how. She finishes her cigarette and stamps on the ashes, the cremated remains of her former self, and as she walks away she wonders how to set her brain on fire and throw her heart on the pyre, too. But first: to remind herself that she is but dust and to dust she shall return: to ignore the possibility of her former self being reincarnated as a phoenix: to empty her mind of the vision of watching her history burn: to just breathe in that relief: to leave that life, that trouble, that girl entirely behind.

[For context, read F.E.A.R here]

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Sunstroke

close up of couple holding hands

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Oh love

Your dispossessed erstwhile vowels

My clamoring for meaning

When we are both, slung over a giants shoulder

Soil carried to replace the old and build future

Timorously and then bold, holding bit between teeth, gritting and grinding down

Sensible molars, well protected in childhood

While voices of reason chime midday bell

We hear only the inside out sound of skin and bones
Our own scraped bare-faced challenge

Hot in the sun captured in bottles without secure tops

Ready to burst, I observe in the minutes lacing themselves forward

The steeped joy of owning this private glance into your fickle heart

Where many times it does not rain but still you never age, nor

Run out of the substance making you strong and bright

Like hammered silver bends only to the implement and wears its
bruises well

You are well. And I am well. Deep down. In the stir of our marrow.

Where we recognize that weather vein casting our fates together

Your pianists fingers crisscrossed against my loss of inhibition

Who am I kidding? I’m never absent from the purchase of passion

Long it has been the fiddle that gets my jig

And the moment is stretched long and elastic against mutual want

We breathe the same, dissimilarity leaving her clothes in the doorway

I cannot say after this long staring into you

Where we leave off being separate

The whisker and fall of our mutual song

Sprints ahead into unpaved road

And I am left with pictures

Of the young girl I was

And the woman I became

Beneath you and running through you

A river without dam

Claiming her hot land

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poetry, prosetry

This Time

We’ve said it seriously a few times before we really need to stop we cannot possibly carry on like this we can’t keep doing this shit anymore this is getting out of hand we’ve got to calm down we’ve got to stop and this time this time we really truly mean it

so we pledge and sit indoors on a Friday night sober and tired shaking and wired phones buzzing ignore ignore ignoring wake up Saturday morning wow how good it feels to have slept to feel clear in the head to have spent nothing no fights no sex no shame no regret

so let’s celebrate with a bottle of wine and some shots and a few lines because now we know that we can do it or rather do without it so we’re fine and we deserve it because we’ve worked so hard all week and we’re young and it’s fun so why should we impose these crazy rules on ourselves life is for living drugs are for taking drinks are for drinking music is for dancing so fuck it let’s live it let’s do it let’s do this

and then in a couple of days when you’re sick and skint and I’m a depressed mess we can have our little chat again and pledge again and

this time

we

really

fucking

mean it

right?

no seriously
I mean it this time
I know
we’ve got to stop
yes I agree
so do I
right then
that’s good
that’s fine
we can do this
yes
we don’t need any of it
no
everything is gonna be just fine
yes

 

 

 

is it really though?
what?
is everything gonna be fine?
yes

 

 

 

silence

 

 

 

 

 

I could really do with a line
same

 

 
one last line
for the last time
the last line for the last time
yes

 

 

 

 

I really fucking mean it this time
so do I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(’til next time)

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Possession

bonfire burning camp campfire

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

A house without visitor

a life without notice

the invisible among us

silent behind their walls

we think nothing of

in our hour of mirth

trying instead to catch the tailcoats

of that good feeling as long as it lasts.

For some of us, if we are lucky

we never run out

of brightly colored days and regard

for others, life is a jigsaw of incomplete moments

too much spent unnoticed and forgotten

behind structures that do not speak

the words too hard to say.

We are not selfish for wanting to stay

free of sadness, and shrugging it off when seen

though it compounds those many weary souls

alone so often it begins to feel

like a waking death.

I used to wonder at their fortitude, why

they continued on, what kept them going

if anyone ever gave them a thought

never imagining I could become myself

their neighbor in isolation.

There is nothing to be done for it

some of us are by our natures and fate

passed over, left behind, forgotten

no pity required, we sustain ourselves

on the very grief felt, sitting at single tables

trying to open our mouth to sustaining.

Sometimes, even breathing is

an effort

perhaps, when we die early

and unremarkably

this is why

for the body responds to sadness

shutting down, closing off

turning out the last light.

I think of childhood and how I should have known

it was a preparation, or a warning, depending

but then I had hope

and now you cut me off

with not so much as a whisper

and I see my own reflection fade

from all memories and all common ground

to become what maybe it always was

before I ever existed, before

time itself, counted down

loss

though loss is not the right word

for you cannot lose what you

never possessed

 

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poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

This is dying / This is living

grayscale photography of two woman kissing

Photo by Fernando Favero on Pexels.com

Don’t say / that word

case we defame / or endanger

this moment / and the next

cresting night waves against recumbent shore

your arms molded from sand rise and fall

to my perpetuate weave

and we are

like flowers awaiting sufficient light

to open fully

a miracle each time the pallet of

senses born over with each song

held in my chest like women who wet their lips with the sore

chaff of flax before threading it into life

we make our reality

each elbow gracing air with untrained response

ballerinas finding satin undercoat

beneath dance

if leaves covered us, they’d say

Fall never ran out of color

your diminishing form as you lean away

gasping for air and back again into

perfect vision

there are only circles, nothing is

straight lined nor willing to beg for its supper

we two have earned our share of peace

many years of violence

the thrum and rub of pain is an ever

present crystal, hung against day

a kaleidoscope of far away places

we both realized that ache lying

just one layer beneath fevered skin

for you are

this enchanted place within me

a mirror of sea water washing over

the hardness I tried to place in armor

in lieu of a heart

your beneficence and the

arch of your neck bent in sleep

a field mouse of russet and dream

I would gather everything holy

pour the past down trilling drain

vanish with you into wings of night

two stars indivisible, our energy tracing

electric center of the other

this is dying and this is living

neither of us can mouth the enchantment

no longer necessary to verbalize motion

as birds gather their passage to dusk

swooping like dancers ushered from stage

and after everyone is gone

our love shall endure

a hidden thing

blazing brightly

in memoriam

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