Tile Table


That tile table (paddock size)
would be remarked on now.
Then, it was just ‘the table’ where cups went ‘clunk’
and the enamel pot rang.
So big we all had afternoon tea
along one yellow and green perimeter without disturbing
a central heap of peas (erratic bull-ants in old newspaper).

The linoleum was darker
mossier green,
gloom on gloom tartan to rub a toe along
to trace a pattern of good luck;
(move on darker bars past the scullery hole that smelt
of sunlight — soap — and steel wool in decay,
hop to a lighter edge
past the one-step-down bathroom).

That bathroom housed a bath with white claw-legs.
The cement floor was painted red.
The whole house smelt of ferns, rusted mesh and seeping gas.
The water heater poked its tongue and lit the match.
What child would not be terrified?
‘I’m not dirty today,’ I lied brightly
covered in fern spores like instant-coffee dust.

One morning (was it just dawn?)
I braved the milk-grey wash of still-night-things,
cattle cupboards, steel uncertainties,
to find my grandma in the kitchen wrapping mounds
of sandwiches.
A woollen ravelled comforter that charged on one battery
she said, ‘It’s just your Uncle Arthur off to work.’
She put a cosy on an egg, placed toast in a rack.
‘Early off is early back.’

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