Tea, Toast & Biscuits

Keith O’Sullivan
Sep 16, 2019 · 3 min read
Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

When I was young/I used to do the groceries for
you/take the short walk down the street on my
own/I’ve never tasted more freedom/than in
walking that fifty-yard stretch/freedom and
power/even the (automatic) doors/opened at
my command/beholden to my strident stride

Milk/tea/sugar/bread/the butter in the silver
packet, salted/those finger biscuits with the
white cream filling/it felt like Christmas when
asked for those/but no ham/that would be
sliced fresh in the corner shop/and wrapped in
white parchment

In return/a 20 pence coin/that was stashed in
the pocket/of my football bag/waiting for the
moment/when I had enough/to stop into the
shop/on the way home from training/and buy a
lollipop/from the large plastic tub by the till/one
of those sherbet ones/that no longer tastes as it
(should)(used to) taste/when purchased with
the proceeds of childhood freedom

Once we got some tea sent home/from the
States/or maybe Canada/that tasted of
blueberries/an exotic treat that I finished on my
own/everyone else didn’t care for it/but for me
it tasted of the future/I used to confuse
different with better then/I was sad when it was
gone/I didn’t get the last bag/I still look for it in

You would make me tea/and toast/and
sometimes bring out the biscuit tin (I still use
the same one)/with those finger biscuits/or
sometimes on special occasions Mikados/or
those puffy lemon filled ones/the ones that I
didn’t like until they were the only ones
left/once you told me that I spread jam too
thick/just like my granda/I blushed but was
secretly proud/of the comparison

How could I forget/the quiet strength in those
hands/the unfaltering feet that had led me over
mountains/showed me the secret springs where
we filled those old gallon bottles/with fresh
water for home/I didn’t like water then/a
stubborn child/but to drink from those bottles
was sacred/a sweet, sweet ambrosia/I can still
taste those waters in my dreams

He was gone before I really knew it/one day I
was waiting for him to return/sitting atop a
small mountainside boulder/wondering if I
would have to live on rabbit droppings if he
didn’t return/the next I was calling to see him
after exam prep/because this time he really
might never return/this time he didn’t/those
years passed in an instant/but are so heavy/I
carry them with me anyway

We resumed that old ritual/you and I/tea, toast,
biscuits, quiet talk/sometimes silence/I really
did try to take my head from those books for
you/I continued to spread the jam thick
though/do this in memory of me/a sacrament
that made more sense/than the waning faith/I
still clung to/couldn’t articulate/except in verses
hidden under the phone/I knew you would find
them during your nightly phone calls

I never wanted to make the same mistake
again/but I did/unintentional/but isn’t that a
form of intent?/I couldn’t wouldn’t didn’t
believe the news/looked for every
loophole/every chance at reprieve/I never
stopped looking/until there was no longer
anything to find/I found everything I needed/in
your last wave

I was never any good at saying goodbye

I was always too late

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