Peat leaves and creme water
Tea-time warmth through spoutway
After-sip of midday’s saunter.
Tannination; great sky face sips up,
warm air of Afterscone down.
It almost scolded us, this blow.
Unusual—neighbour’s handle drawn overtop.
Not tannin storm nor racing,
Something a-scraping and fumble,
Fumble soaring as shell floor thunders up—
Tidal built tidal froth
Ringing silence of the coarse scratching,
Split leaf, mirror surface.
A figure stands at the backspout.
I try to sign, wave, wait in fear.
Conscious of pride, straight tea-spooned back,
Hand grips the strainer
Five fingers for five openings.
Eventide-scratched t-shirt steps forward.
“Get back! I do not know you!”
Lid off the boiled dew,
Face all round, pimpled, scared.
“Supper naught with your sort!”
Pieces and blocked shards a-glint,
Hand here and ear there.
My eyes still see it, nervous shivers.
“I am neither spoon nor grater, but Cottaric!
Move your hand, step back.”
Blow froth to close cracks,
Pleasant, watchful steam to thrift behind them, the girl.
“Sweet wanderings, careful treads ‘afore Stool. Welcome to the Cottaric.”
She looks so calm to be half naked and half welcome.
She could clay cracks, serve drinks off-handle.
This one might last.
The scalded, steaming tides, destroying lives?
“Yea, may our spouts stay empty!”
A quake too familiar.
Rushed clotted cream suit to the basement.
I must not cry over spilt milk.
left-behind leaves stick between my teeth.
tannins cling to my tongue like
shame, like old tea hardened in
contour lines around my writing desk.
vanilla softens my lips. muscles curl
around the handle, resist the weight,
heat, then roll into a touchdown,
tea drops spattering the wall of mugs.
the surface breaks upon impact.
lamplight splits into tiny stars,
rapid and seasick, stringing together
the taut smile of a ghost-face.
in the falling tide its features sharpen,
enfold me in accusation.
i draw myself tall as my periphery darkens
and porcelain scrapes underfoot.
air thickens, ground sways, i stumble against
something metal. between its bars, streets unroll— rows of half-dissolved sugar cubes,
windows of polished faces, and the stranger,
smaller than before, all wispy hair and trembling knees.
“i’m sorry—wait. i thought you brought me here.”
his face is smeared with vanilla clouds, and
in the foreground, my own crumpled brow—
i stand pantless, penniless, perturbed.
“i’ve nothing to give.
it’s clear i’m not welcome, so—”
i turn to watch the backspout, the opening, dissolve inside a dome sky walled by mountains.
quivering, i curtsy, he nods his head.
a jagged ray of gold skims the six-o-clock ceiling,
as steel people re-emerge
to gossip and water their kelp.
the people of the Cottaric trade in goods and joy,
shake and hold hands over the fence.
“i have little to offer, but i do make a mean cup of tea.”
the wash of a tide
rattles over the southern hills.
the floor tilts.
a heaviness settles on my wrist.
a drop of cold tea meets my tongue.
sediment leaks into lines of ink.