by Denise O’Hagan

What was

In the kitchen I stand
Tracksuit-clad and blinking
As the click of the front door shuts
The sounds of the day away.

I snuff the gas 
And the subterranean gurgling fades to naught
As, like a latter-day suburban witch
Leaning over her latter-day potion
I raise the lid of my coffee pot
Damp my fingers in the steam
And enact the tri-part ritual:
Close, lift, and ever so gently pour
A rich and gleaming rope 
Of boiling black memoried liquid
Bearing the imprint of half a century of pourings
Into my cup.

Reverently I raise it to my lips
And drink of another old high-ceilinged kitchen
Zig-zagged by light cutting in through the shutters
Half-closed against the sun from the run-around balcony
With its fluttering of uneven ghosts on the line
Which spoke of countless bendings and stretchings 
As our mothers down the generations casually
Pegged our lives out there on the washing line:
All this inherent in that single sip.

I dip my toast in coffee, smile
And, fortified, swallow away nostalgia 
and am, for now, grateful for what was.


Before the party

It must have just stopped raining
When we arrived. The road, licked for hours
By the quiet slap of countless passing tyres,
Gleamed blackly under the streetlamps
Like wet liquorice. We sat for a moment
Watching the mist descend
Cobwebbing the edges of trees and hedges,
The silver turning of a leaf in the damp air,
And the tenting of the telegraph wires
Carrying beads of water like fairy lights
Backlit by the moon.

Feeling privileged to witness
This heady scene, we realized
(as car doors slammed and gravel crunched)
That our reason for having driven here
Was, for a moment, quite forgotten.

These poems first appeared in the journal Literary Yard.

Image: Santosh Maharjan from Pexels