Denise O’Hagan

What was

In the kitchen I stand
Tracksuit-clad and blinking
As the click of the front door shuts
The sounds of the day away.

I snuff the gas
And the subterranean gurgling fades to naught
As, like a latter-day suburban witch
Leaning over her latter-day potion
I raise the lid of my coffee pot
Damp my fingers in the steam
And enact the tri-part ritual:
Close, lift, and ever so gently pour
A rich and gleaming rope
Of boiling black memoried liquid
Bearing the imprint of half a century of pourings
Into my cup.

Reverently I raise it to my lips
And drink of another old high-ceilinged kitchen
Zig-zagged by light cutting in through the shutters
Half-closed against the sun from the run-around balcony
With its fluttering of uneven ghosts on the line
Which spoke of countless bendings and stretchings
As our mothers down the generations casually
Pegged our lives out there on the washing line:
All this inherent in that single sip.

I dip my toast in coffee, smile
And, fortified, swallow away nostalgia
and am, for now, grateful for what was.

Denise O’Hagan, 2018

Published in Literary Yard, 22 August 2018
Republished in Scarlet Leaf Review, 21 January 2019
Republished in The Sunlight Press, 1 April 2019
Republished in Abstract Magazine: Contemporary Expressions, 1 June 2019
Shortlisted in the Robert Graves Poetry Prize 2018