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

Holding Water

What I wouldn’t say out loud;

At a dinner party, when the conversation turns to

matters of personal identity and the such.

That I live in a country where

self-confidence is in the very water alongside Chlorine

And possibly many pissed out Pharmacuticals

I don’t know how they import it or how they bottled it

in the first place

but everyone takes a long swig

and grows up self-important and rarely doubting

their worth

A la the internalized cheerleader

I must therefore hail

from an island of thorns

because I didn’t get inoculated against

the sumptuous barbs

my skin punctures at the slightest retort

I bled easily even after I cauterized the wound.

Necessarily, this has caused some

discomfort

people don’t get how

someone can hate themselves

be a painted sin eater

for all insult

until that gobstopper of internalized anguish

turns on them and it feels like

it’s always been about hating the self

Such a natural elegant process of self harm

looking back in the mirror

wishing she could erase

the very DNA, the very face of her.

Now I have a second sight

for bullshit and fakes

and often I’m told; Give me a chance you never know!

But O I do

and I stay away from the saturating crowd

as they live their camera-ready lives

to the fizz and hiss of the insta-bulb

wondering if I will ever

feel differently or if this

deep phlegmy cough

will inhabit my very soul and become

a new lingua of self loathing.

Sometimes I see girls who

could have been me, but grew up

in a different world where

presumably they were inoculated against

self-hate at an early age and given a healthy dose

of worth and manifest ego

they seem like an identical twin who

was raised on grass instead of hay

in the sun instead of snow

and even though they still possess

the abhorant figure of myself

with her squinting mash of ancestral sabotage

I find I like aspects of them

as they flourish weed-like

unawares

there is a shadow

watching them

wondering

if I had grown up just like them

and taken my Happy Pills along with my self deception

what would I have gained?

What would I have lost?

I might resemble them but

I suspect, I would be nothing like them

except in the cracked glass of us

broken and repaired many times

until they can stand no more

to hold

water

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Spilt milk

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I don’t have your poise

or formidable intelligence

I haven’t inherited your coloring

or the savagery with which

you tear people out of your life

I used to believe I was weak

because I felt so much and could not

turn away in anger

a trait much prized and perfected

no, I was

clumsy enough to be feeling

and try as I may, the ice

did not stay in my veins

just as resentment doesn’t hang on me

an internal coat

nor grudges devour

my peace.

While i am not always happy

I do not fashion that unhappiness

to break and grind, the bones of others

I was told so many times

I was nothing more than a dumb beast

trying in vain

but those people were proven wrong

for this dumb beast

accomplished everything she attempted

perhaps just to prove them wrong.

It is my road

the one alone

and I ache for you when it rains

like the six year old

listening for the sound of your key in the door.

I cannot expunge the pain, I carry it, inherited, a scar of many faces

you were a pattern I mimicked, knowing nothing else

maybe now you are released from your bonds and I from mine

we will be free to make our own new lines

though if I could choose, I would return

to the feeling of loving you, within your murmur

for yours were the first words I heard

curled in a c within your body.

You can cut me out and there I gasp

but I am tied to you,  as the sun will

pay her travail and always love

the moon

climbing out of what we always knew

to lay wreaths of crimson in homage

to spilt milk

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Uncategorized

Live again

The day I stopped feeling

It wasn’t a tap turned all the way to halt any drip

or wet socks left on radiator until cardboard stiff

through muslin sheet I felt a wistfulness

like poignant ending of a film

or sad story of someone else’s life

but you did not feel part of me anymore

when I touched your hand, it was flesh and blood

not a girl I was connected to

neither stranger, but some

distance stood solid like forging tree limbs

seeking electric charge from rain after storm has passed

I had moved beyond you without

marking the spot, I put down my heartache

this is surely the most human thing about us

our ability to keep going, not fall down and wither

knowing we are finite and fallen

watch a child lose a friend on Friday

gain another come Monday

grief is a litmus test

a sorrow we shrug on and eventually off

I convinced myself of devastation

when Tuesday brings change even as we don’t seek

it comes drawing out like elongated stretch

I never thought

I’d feel nothing

looking into your eyes

but you closed yourself off

In time, I began to look away

Into the distance

where the unknown glistened

like a mirage

of things bidden

by places within us

that say

O please

live again

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life, poetry, prosetry

The hands of the lost

Sometimes

You pick the sinking ship

Recognizing within

Carousel parts of

Your own visit on earth

There is much wrong

In repeating mistakes or

Returning to well worn habit

When outcomes have proven they are

Dead roads and broken boats

It is not that you are

A martyr

Or even a fool

You do not wish

To bring yourself lower

But if you imagine life

As a well worn stoop

And whom you should feel

Most comfortable sitting there with

Then you will fathom

The type who finds themselves

Supporting the broken-down and

The fractured

For the sheer honesty of their response

And that well earned familiar

That you have known over and over

In the apologetic eyes of your own

And that trembling hand teaching through time

Asking you to

Be patient with my mistakes

There is something

Comforting and real

In a flaw

When all the city lights try to attain pearly perfection

Something you’ve never related to

Another language for

Early risers without grime stains behind their ears

The kinds who are punctual and routine

And do not make shoddy excuses for

Why they cannot lift the weight of the world

From their shoulders

People who may

Go on to take office whilst you seek

To survive and advance by understanding

What keeps the world turning

Which

Can be discovered

In equal amount

From the hands of the lost

As those who are found

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life, poetry, prosetry

Your misuse

They can tell you

Because you’re not going to back down

You won’t sell your sisters for a side ways glance

You won’t burn your bra, you may need it to strangle someone

You have the same look

All of you

The ones with green hair and multiple piercings who say fuck off before you smile

The ones who rule the world behind the scenes and nod as their husbands slip inside

The ones who are glory and begotten and forgotten and eclipsed and insist

They still live

You can tell

Even as they spell it out in myriad ways

I am not your slave

You do not own me

But once I was hurt very badly

By my father, mother, brother, sister, best friend, neighbor, uncle, stranger

And I carry the brand around my throat

Once in a while when I lean over

You can see it quickening

I may stay locked at home with agoraphobia

I may dance on tables in mock euphoria

I may fuck you and your friends for a glass of red

I may be a nun or an abstinent

How I express my rage

Comes differently

But inside we’re all the same

The whores, the moms, the teachers, the tree cutters, the little and the large the quiet and the opera singer

If I open my legs it doesn’t mean I’m over it

Or caused it or needed that brand

If you repeat the violence, it may be the carousel in my head

If I close them it doesn’t mean I’m frigid or need a bit of teaching, by you

If I’m a lesbian that’s not the reason, if I’m into men, I’m not guilty of treason

Underneath we are the sisters and brothers of

Your misuse

And our pain doesn’t go away like Oprah said

Our scars aren’t magnified if we think about it thirty years to the day

We’re not stronger for forgetting, remembering, talking, staying silent

Violence, passivity, acceptance, rage

We’re not weak because at 4 am we find tears on our cheek

We’re not strong because we take it and carry it around

We survived

Just like a rock

Covered with water

Will remain whole beneath storm

But whittle down with erosion

So slow nobody can tell

We’re not your beloved or maybe we are

We’re c-sections and sterility and STDs and shame in every color

We’re nymphomaniacs and we’re disgusted, we’re relieved, we’re open, we’re closed

We’re sisters and brothers of fire and brimstone

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poetry

Effigy

When asked

Why did you burn the candle so hard?

She could have said

Running from myself

Sprinting from emptiness

Falling into a comfortable void

Embacing the unwashed boys and heroin eyed girls

Their empty bellies and mouths of hurt

Rolling her razor hips to electronica

Slack red mouth and mocca skin

Racetracks in silver running like rivers along her wrists

She inhabited sound as a moonstone glows brightest in darkness

Teaching me to welcome letting go

Whispering, stop the neglect eating you 

Slip into me

This injection of freedom

Two red lipped matches rubbing against skin

Taste the sulphur, inhale till you can catch dragons tail

She liked to dip her toes in fridgid water

Mastering length of endurance like a tightrope walker

Her strength wound tight like tigers breath

How can you emerge from such a world?

Returning to normalcy as a virgin loses blood

Forever changed

I still glance up, a little too fast

When I hear fast footsteps run across my heart

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