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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fiction, life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

her inferno

suicide-in-art-rosie--high

a voice

something still alive

someone trying not to scream

they make a sound that could only be described as an

oral ache

stretch of sinew, wide mouth, no noise, neighbors hear

nothing

there has been too much pain for sound

still tears come, when you think there could be no more

nobody knows, nobody knows, nobody knows

behind well constructed facade, beneath masks

the woman with her head in the oven

probably wrote a decent poem before she expired

smoothed her apron down, sent her kids to school

before turning the dial high

her own sounds of anguish and the hiss of gas

a sigh of sighs

the postman can knock on the door and you can open with a bright

false smile and he will think to himself as he departs, she is such a happy

woman always with a nice thing to say and a bright grin, I wish my wife were

half as content

close the door, gather the rope, sling it securely

the same woman who turns the dial high

prepares her demise with thoughtfulness

she is tutored at deceiving

sickness overwhelms her and she is on the floor tearing at herself

watching from ceiling, a woman unravel and be unable to re-knit

she feels in her solar plexus, in her very marrow, the scourge of loss

she can’t stand it, she can’t stand it, she can’t stand it

the idea time assuages pain, is a falsehood

hers is a road that will always be wet with tears

her eyes are closed and she is imagining how it is some of us

never stop hurting and others can brush off betrayal like lint

walk on unperturbed.

in the silence of her house, the clock in the hallway unwound

she feels the walls closing in, the very sky descend

all her madness like balls of yarn, have no where to pretend

they are okay

she is demented with hurt

voiceless, personless, no-one to reach out to

her arms are cut again and again with the switch of abandonment

she was once someone’s baby

she was once someone’s love

lapsing into unconsciousness in hot overflowing bath

crimson for her unshed horrors, streaking clean floor

did not need to use her own hands in sterile afternoon

washing line blowing emptiness like fallen maps

now she is dirt and dust and a woman without bones

she is sinking into the soft hiss of gas escaping gratefully

if she had the courage she’d light a match to guarantee

her inferno

she left one last message on one last machine

lost in time and the rolling hours curling their faces to the wall

her tinny voice breaking and crackling over distance

saying goodbye without saying goodbye

for even in death she pretends

everything is okay

and when you come home at 6

the table will be laid, your shirt for tomorrow pressed

hanging like a specter

its loose arms waving

in mute appeal

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Night becomes us

pexels-photo-240174 - Copy

I push people away

as they pushed away from me when I first learned

that’s what people do

so run ahead and do it first

you might tell them your real age, or show them the scars in your skin, that usually does it

with online trolls who really only want a

mirror little narcissist

you might show them your face and all the welts that

lay invisible and divisible like trails of tears

finding only drought

you might reveal your defeats and play join the dots

with stories for each one and then you may

know me just a little

except I don’t want to be known and even as I write

I remain anonymous to myself

the perpetuation of a dream instead

where we dance sweaty and disordered with our hair

collapsed like flamenco skirts in rivers of ruffles

two people with thick manes and thin skin

I taste blood on your lower lip and the depth of it

makes a vampire of me

your pulsing neck is salty from your keening

we interlace our hands like church mice and bad girls and best friends and artful dodgers

I feel your fingers pulsing within me as together we cleave

so much comes from a body who wants and so little from one who does not

when I see you, I want to close my eyes and hold onto the image

how you stand, the light caressing your flawless skin as

oil might run her rivets down your elongation

If choice were a bird, I’d choose you again

And once more, with the release of my lips from yours

A song passed between mouths like a key

Open my heart, keep yourself there

If choice were a thought, I’d choose you again

And once more, with the capture of your ebony and ivory

You, who is seamstress to my soul, play your flute

I hear it behind my eyes in the vault of my trust

If you were a dream I should better wish to wake

Our drowsy love may keep us drugged by its tempest

Sleeping in the passion of your touch

As sun sets and night becomes us

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Moving toward light

adult alone anxious black and white

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When I am sad, a voice, not unlike my own

chastises the impulse

if it is that, wishing to rise beyond, crush of emotion

when I am sad, I make myself sadder

by listening to those inherited echoes, telling me how I should feel

shutting down the validity, condemning feelings less than

knocking walls already fragile, disqualifying the emotion

when I am sad

I think of your disappointment

how much you wanted me to be

a thing of steel

reflecting only brightness

nothing dull or sorrowful

how I became in irony, almost everything you loathe and detest

I would say I am sorry, for your distress

but I learned instead of words, to be sad

maybe in part, because I saw, that flint in your eyes

nothing else was there

though in truth I was sad, at six years old

watching kids bully each other

knowing then, inequality and inequity

imagining the fight before I had, grown tall enough

hoping The Magic Faraway Tree

was real but knowing if it were

children grown to adults, would cut it down

when I am sad

sometimes it helps to think

love cannot be broken

by sadness or loneliness or grief

love stands as our first flower

even as it no longer exists the scent remains

to save us from disappointment

of so many other things

including each other and our infinite ability to be cruel

I am still the child with the blue rabbit

watching adults lie to each other

and kids emulate and pinch, the very stuffing out of hope

for if there is a Magic Faraway Tree

I think it would not be

for you or thee or me

like all magic things

only reveal itself to those pure hearted enough to know

sadness is manufactured by what we do to each other

with each cruel act it grows

if we let it and if we don’t

then next time I am sad

I will think on other things

like your voice and how

you make my heart quicken, just in your use

of words, the familiar cadence a worm

reaching deep into my heart

moving toward light.

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Untitled #39

I forget

What I lived for back then

Maybe just hope

That indefinable future stretching unknown

It always baffled me how the young

Could give up and try to die

When there was always hope

And some sympathy for their tender years

I want to say to them

Wait until you get here

Then the going gets quiet

People don’t check on you

There is no sympathy for your failing

We’re supposed to be stronger

What doesn’t kill us, right?

Not true

Everything that’s destroyed me did not

Make me more resilient

That’s a lie we tell ourselves and our friends

Or maybe for some it’s a truth

Not for me

I feel with every battering less and less

Less willing to stand and fight

For why?

The illusion things will change?

The care that rarely solidifies

I am so good at lifting others up

So poor at building my house

Because I gave my faith to them

And made nothing for myself

Instead I hear, the voices of the past

Telling me why I’m worthless

And it isn’t just the past

It’s recent and the scar

Never heals

I am

Broken

I survived only to

Fall

I am hurt beyond description

I ache and feel pain every hour

Nothing I do seems to change

The sorrow of every day

It’s too easy to dismiss it away as

Clinical depression

It is not

I simply wish I could safely die

I wouldn’t even feel guilty anymore

I’m too tired to care

Maybe when you’re not cared about that’s what happens

I find it hard to understand why more don’t share my sentiment

I don’t enjoy life

I have no purpose

I have been left by those I loved

I stand alone

Not blaming anyone

Just seeing through

The bullshit

I wish right now

Life were a dream and death reality

An external sleep

No trespass no hope

It has long been gone

And I have tried for ages to hide my belief

There is no point

For whom?

There is a crack in my heart that runs so deep

Maybe it was all a mistake

I wish I could rewind until

I ceased and never had been

It is hard to want to undo yourself

As you continue to flourish

I am tired of trying

I feel that’s all I’ve ever done

It’s a bit of a delusion

Trying and being in pain

Why try? For whom?

If there is no one

I hear the bus

Letting off children

I remember

Being a child

I wasn’t happy then

It’s not who I am

My mother was right though she was wrong

Maybe I’m a lesson from which others learn

There isn’t as much meaning in everything

As we are told

Sometimes we just exist without meaning

And it’s ugly and long

Too long

I wish I didn’t know

How most books

End

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