#poem #poetry #amwriting The Familiar

The Familiar

Behind us, a black-man is telling a work colleague
that she mustn't like pork chops, with a few potatoes.
The world passes our left shoulder at living room height,
each normally private room revealing
as the bald spot of the man at the traffic lights.
Rice and peas, like his mother's, that's the only thing to eat.
He begins to give the recipe.
She tries to get on board, but at every turn he stops her:
not that rice, this rice, no, no, she can't like that rice,
that rice is no good,too commercial,
you have to get it from the Jamaican grocer;
and never buy Uncle Ben's.
You roll your eyes.
The countryside never quite gets going
before we are into the next village,
and the next set of living rooms over shops.
She tries to reroute him, by talking about work: but to no avail.
Since, if you have been listening, you will need fish
to go with his mother's rice and peas.
Not a nice bit of battered cod or plaice,
you have to go to the fishmonger from St Kitts
who has a stall in the market.
A woman,
in a towel,
changing channels
catches my attention,
so unfortunately I cannot relay the details of the fish:
that you will need.
Though I do know it needs coconut milk.
We drink the last of the tea from the flask, cold,
nowhere is yet quite familiar enough.
I don't share the Twix, on account of my teeth.
You need to let the rice cool a bit
before doing something or other with the fish.
But you'll be glad you did.
It's far better than a pork chop, with potatoes.
It will make your mouth sing.
But if you must have a pork chop,
then you need to cook it like his mother.
A white haired lady stands at the window above a baker's.
We have paused at a zebra crossing.
We both look away, though I have the urge to wave,
but that would be unfair.
I am already invading.
As we move off, I look back, she is crying.
Some kids, at the front, get off.
If you can't get banana leaves then greaseproof paper will do:
at a push, but you have to grease it with oil: lots of oil.
And make sure the oven is hot.
We almost make the effort to move
but a man with a dog takes the front seat.
The backpacks relax into place, again.
It all seems so long ago, that we were stood on the brow
looking out across the valley, with the shining lake,
and nothing but ourselves.
Reading my thoughts you scroll the pictures on your phone.
Diffidently you say you were just checking time.
I like this about you.
The partial pleasing lie, like when I took two buses
to be just passing, and you said you were just about to ring.
And then we got into that nice stage
of apologising for saying I love you.
And do you mind if I say how excited you make me feel.
You need spices, lot's of spice, to make a good pork chop.
And rice and peas, you can't beat rice and peas.
Then she says, bluntly, that she grills the pork chop
to the point of crisping the fat, and that's how she likes it.
With potatoes, and sometimes a few peas,
on a plate on her lap, in front of the tele
with her slippers on, and the door locked.
I notice a shop I know.
And we hold hands.