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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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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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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life, prosetry

Lovely

I had three nosebleeds today, all of them highly satisfying, each one equally lovely.

I like to look at the patterns the blood paints onto the tissue as if they were Rorschach inkblots. Bloodblots. I say what I see because nobody is beside me to take notes or worry about what I say that I see (wasps, exploding grenade, apples, the Wisła when it flooded).

The free-falling drop of claret that lands on your newspaper at the junction of 21 down and 29 across. Such a lovely surprise!

The deciphering of the blood-blots, the eventual stop as the blood clots. It’s so lovely when your body chooses to remind you that you are alive, particularly when you yourself have forgotten.

The rolling of the tissue between your palms, forming the evidence of life into a neat ball, launching it directly into the bin in the corner, a lovely, clean shot.

The wipe of your nose with the back of your hand. The answer to 21 down written in red. The taste of rust at the back of your throat. Lovely.

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life, prosetry

On The Cusp

No bright light, no tunnel, no montage of childhood memories or “best bits”, no soundtrack, no loved ones, no dead relatives, no angels, no God. Just blood and guts and chemical reactions and la chamade and then             .

A freight train gradually slowing down, the application of the brakes, finally grinding to a total halt after a couple of miles. Careering forward towards that stop with no way to stop the stopping.

No thoughts. Inability to think about anything. Only able to feel your body in its entirety, the weight of it, its structure, how you [have always] live[d] inside of it. Heartbeats and skin and bones and muscle and fat and blood moving. You feel exactly where your organs are housed: they’ve always worked so hard without you asking them to and now they are slowly, slowly shutting down (over 1 minute? 10 hours? 2 days? you will never know and it doesn’t matter because time isn’t matter so it doesn’t die).

No control. You cannot think, so you cannot will your body to fix itself or will it to speed up the process. No cerebral functioning, at all, only corporeal dysfunctioning.

Feeling your body in a way that you have never felt it before. Such heaviness in your limbs. Your spine weighs a tonne. Your muscle melts off of you like ice-cream and then sets around you like concrete. Weight weight weight, the weight of your matter, and gravity keeping you tied down in whatever position you decided was your last, stuck in that way, feeling your body dissolve, feeling yourself falling off your bones. Unable to open your eyes. No thought to even try.

No sound, no background noises, no internal monologue, no voices, just nothingness, a vacuum, a black hole located in your centre, where your sternum ends, right between your floating ribs. No fight, no struggle, just being: you are in your body and it is slowing down, bit by bit, over an incomprehensible period of time, until it stops completely.

The brain does not go last, as we have been led to believe. The brain goes first. You cannot think, you cannot do. You just be until you stop [being]. The heart goes last. Dying is not peaceful or scary or wild or magical or painful. It just is. Like you just are and one day, you won’t be.

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