Tag Archives: Family

In lieu of another

It’s hard to sew being so very slow.
There’s a precision required
that is rarely used in these particular days.
Did my grandmother say the same?
Probably not, for she would have practiced the skill
and not as an art form, but a practical necessity.
The saving of socks and the counting of buttonholes.
Yet in this unraveled sleeve where the cuff
has loosened itself a good three inches round
there are many stitches needed
through and back and over again
to bridge the widening gap.

It is not men alone who no longer sew
or know much of its doing.
It is one of the older active verbs
which has been replaced
by the conglomerate of buying instead.
And it’s true that I caused Mister Claus
to bring me an exact brother
to this simple hooded sweatshirt (blue)
color may vary due to unique drying process
but still, I’m not prepared or ready
to throw away this first version I fell in love with.
Loyalty and sentiment extend beyond dogs and girls.

Problems remain however with the slowness of my inefficiency.
These sutures are clumsy, leaving a ragged scar,
but in the end closure is complete and my sense of simple Zen
by these selfless moments is, if not made anew, at least repaired.



They say in a prison
any gulag or road gang
a spoon is a man’s most valuable item
he can scoop and cut and drink with it

and after all a watery soup
of some kind of porridge
is what you might be grateful
to be eating.

In the solitary of living alone
albeit a short sentence
while my family are elsewhere
and I am here unfiltered

I look into the kitchen sink each morning
to see four or five spoons
and nothing else to be washed
for everything I needed was done right there.

On This Third Day of July

It’s ten in the morning,
on this third day of July,
and I am sitting on a narrow bench
(too narrow for the bones upon it),
on an old wooden deck in a tangled garden
at the back of a tangled house.

There are bricks and twigs
roughly assembled here on the table
and a long shell stuck nose down
into the hole designed to received umbrellas.
There are small reasons for all of this,
as there are for mostly everything.

It is the hot of New England,
for we are closer to the sun here
(although it remains uncertain
if the sun feels closer to us).
My fingers and this pen are a shadow on the page,
as if the left-handed sundial of myself.
Two lines the most moderate of detectives
could spend a full day in the field over.
What can be known from the little that is told?

They say in other dimensions you can slip through time,
as if off the back of a creased envelope,
and this is also true of relationships long-developed.
Any different word or way of saying it
can rip through this fabric we consider so strong.

The bricks, thirteen of them in their pieces,
some still clung to by mortar,
came from a chimney on the roof
(where chimneys tend to be).
There was a storm some weeks ago
while we were in the west and elsewhere,
as though a movie left running
with no one in the room.

The lightning rod served its purpose
and is propped up here beside me,
disconnected and dead for now.
The bricks I don’t know about,
they remain gathered up
awaiting word of their fate.

The twigs, also poorly collected,
are a kindling pile for the smallest possible fire.
They were fingernails from a branch
that was connected to a bough,
once limber on a thick trunk,
that was snapped suddenly by the wind
during the same storm and are nothing now
but items of evidence in a court that will never convene.

Upstairs my wife sleeps.
It’s ten twenty five;
what has been learned?



Buttering the cat’s paws

All the grown-up women I knew when a child in London in the 1960s would unwrap half-pound packets of butter, put the butter in the butter dish, and then fold the paper packets in half lengthways and put them, with others already so collected, somewhere dedicated for the purpose in their fridge.

These were then taken out as needed to grease cake tins and bread pans when baking and provided a degree of non-stickness that is today more commonly achieved by a combination of Teflon and/or Pam (an invidious spray if it hasn’t gotten to you from America yet)

My father’s mother used these butter papers for this purpose, but she also used them to butter the cat’s paws.

I can’t say exactly how often she would do this, but we went for Sunday tea every fortnight and every second or third visit, after the washing up had been done and the little kitchen in her council house in Greenford was perfectly spick-and-span, she’d get a serious look on her serious face and ask of those who were sat in front of the telly to watch the football highlights “Have you seen our Minnie?

Her rationale was that the cat, deeply offended at having its paws forcibly greased, would then lick said paws and wash away at the rest of her fur, as cats will, and by transferring the butter to her coat, the lustrously healthy sheen that Minnie always displayed would be continued and ensured.

If you put “Butter the cat’s paws” into the search engines  it returns mention that buttering the cat’s paws when moving into a new house will ensure that said pet will not run away. This superstition is new to me.

Unfortunately my dear Nanny is long since gone and thus I cannot ask her. Minnie is also no longer with us, but in memory she always did have the most wonderful coat.

To those visiting and considering the purchase of a gift

Please bring me nothing from the world
For there is nothing that I need
But if you should feel it is upon you
Then rather than me accepting a trifle
In some carefully chosen box
That I would brightly welcome
And then lose and forget in some cupboard’s
Dark and lowly corner
Bring me a tea-cosy preferably of wool
To remind me of a time that is all gone
And now only available to me by recreation
And the warmth of standing tea
Saved by a few seconds from reheating
In a microwave my grandma never dreamt of
Or desired.

(May 25, 2013)

The Inevitable Improvements of Death

My mother stood
beside my grandmother
(her mother-in-law)
and made pastry
in exactly the same manner.

I stand in my own kitchen
the lights mostly out
sirens in the Friday street
and write while upright
just as Thomas Wolfe did.

The results are never similar.
Mother’s pastry was good, eatable
but not the same as Nanny’s
and certainly not in memory
once dear Nanny died.

Wolfe was dead at thirty-seven
of miliary tuberculosis
his reputation has faltered
amongst some, but not me
for I never sat down to read him.