I can’t have caffeine beyond half past ten,
or maybe eleven at a push.
Midnight approaches and hot water
meets peppermint, chamomile, or blood orange,
and I am not alone.
I used to say it was the cat;
decaying, her spade-like paws
on the white tiles in winter
making her wince with each step,
she had something of the dead about her.
But we buried her last year
or the year before.
No, the kettle stands right where
the back door would have been
so many decades ago.
In the alley, when I pushed the pickaxe
deep into the ground for the French drain,
shells of pale pink and washed-out cream
that you left behind emerged from the earth,
the connection between you and I.
You might be a presence.
You might be more than a tape unspooling,
tracing paper balanced on the gut of time
as it rumbles in its eternal way.
Or you might be crumbs from the boredom
that you left behind as you did your duty;
a lime left on a windowsill, vitamins sucked out
by a nearby star’s throes of life.
Just cockle shells unearthed by movement.
‘No honey,’ I say, opening the cupboard,
‘I didn’t want any, anyway.’
I am not alone.
No eye contact, hard-faced
with legs that feel like cocktail sausages,
you try to balance on my lap,
circumnavigate my knee
as my palm brushes your shell,
mosaic of green, brown, yellow.
You’re calmed with lettuce,
Blood Orange Tea
Coco pops spread out discolouring the milk, marking its tide.
I wait for the browning swamp I can break with my spoon.
‘Going for a gander,’ he mumbles as he stumbles barefoot
into a Boncath field, waiting for the sun and Flea’s slap and pop.
Pale hills of snow or sand tremble, shake in fear or ecstasy
as olive triangles, red-tipped, etch trails in the sky above.
Where are the lines on ancient video tapes born?
Look closely, behind child me, it’s Rik Mayall on the TV.
She crouched on the grass, never looking comfortable;
we said goodbye then, nos da, although we’d have years to wait.
I can see you through the back doors, the cupboards open,
stacks of plates prepared for me to cover with guacamole.
The news showed it from three different angles, three faces
of fire and twisted metal, so we would know what they’d done.
She sang that Whitney Houston song and you sobbed, wretching
a little, even though it was your fault, and sipped your coffee, three sugars.
Blood orange tea needs seven or eight minutes to brew
but, after crab and fresh potato salad, it’s worth the wait.
George Sandifer-Smith is a Welsh writer and postgraduate student at Aberystwyth University. He has self-published one novelette, Pop Idle, in 2013, and his first children’s book, Cholloo’s Birthday, based on Manx mythology, was published by Lily Publications in 2014. He is the editor of the Cancer Research poetry anthology, The Wait, and also co-edited the 2014 poetry and fiction anthology, Make Time for Aberystwyth. His poetry has been published in the Cadaverine and Long Exposure Magazine.