There is comfort in a special way of doing things, even, or perhaps especially, a quotidian task like making tea. Both of these poems are about relationships with female family members and passing things on, whether objects or wisdom or memories.
No silver spoon, Grandma Connelly dispenses
with a practised eye; upends a quarter pound of loose leaf,
stokes the teapot’s fire-cracked belly, silences the kettle,
scalds the dried black heap, then stirs.
Her tincture eddies, adds a further burnt sienna lining
to the elephantine Betty. Left to mash in a hand-knit cosy,
brown spout raised, this worker signs our Sunday afternoon
in paisley swirls of aromatic steam
then genuflects to each in turn as Grandma pours
her benediction on the mismatched china. I serve
the bottled milk and sugar cubes, take up the offertory
in tea cards – my Brooke Bonds.
Super Strength, this stand-your-spoon-up-in-it brew
has muscles; vulgari-tea, my mother calls it. Still, we sip
its tannin, bitter through the Tate & Lyle scree.
I swallow my displeasure at the unstrained leaves.
Tea cups drained, returned to their saucers, Grandma swoops,
swills the dregs, reserves the residue, peers
into our far futures. As she ruminates
I wonder when she’ll teach me housewives’ runes.
Previously published in pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press 2014)
The watch was old
it had counted the lives of three women
had seemed their cycles
of joy and sadness.
On my grandmother’s Edwardian ruffles
it timed tiny stitches
as she crafted her boy’s suits
her girl’s intricate dresses’s.
sitting by her husband by the open fire.
My mother, her orphaned daughter
wore it pinned to her suit
for a wartime wedding
in a strange country,
when hymns were conducted
by spiraling arcs of Spitfires,
given to me
I tied it to my wedding dress
the face turned revealing a disk
of silver, tiny chiseled flowers,
links of gold string so small
only a caught hair reveals them.
Now it lies with its chain curled
like two bodies folded together
in my daughter’s white bag
that I hold for her
the man who waits at the altar.