Table talk

For Ruth Upperton

As if we would starve.  As if we were shrews,
frantic and burning up like twists of newsprint.
The roast pushed aside in the pan to make way
for breadcrusts to press down on all that juice,
that fat, flipped salty and smoking into our hands

Sausage-meat and onion.  The mutton’s heave
in the oven on a summer Sunday, the blowflies
slow and comfortable.  The endless tramp of shoes,
boots, the scrape of chairs.  Elbows off the table.
Potatoes boiled, mashed, roasted, mashed.  More?

Yes, please.  Carrots boiled yellow. Pale cabbage,
flopped in a heap.  Save the water.  Elbows off
the table, now.  Bread pudding, nutmeg and burnt
black sultanas on top, plump and brown inside.
Tamarillos bleeding in custard.  Prunes and junket,

semolina, Gregg’s Instant Pudding, ten cents
a packet. Chocolate, lime green, strawberry red.
Whisk up a treat. Old woman, mother, lover,
you didn’t know what to do. Eight children
and a house on fire.  Yes, please.  Thank you.

First published in NZ Listener, 9 Oct 2004