Drawing the Tea

by John White

She took young men in because girls were trouble
with their kitchen theories. War
and travel had put paid to her own people
and soon a new clan would sup and half-believe
in the heat of her living room
her intricate appraisal of their tea leaves.
A shimmy of the handle and some motif
that cleaved the bottom
took on Death or Matrimony, ‘woman’s stuff’
they would scoff at. Then one to stop the blood:
A near relation, something not right
about them (it was chromosomal). It was odd
the way that, if you waited long enough,
the lot would come true. And how
at night she’d sit and cry through This is Your Life.
Not bothered with herself, her own decline
was overlooked, or put down
to caprice. With time a circle, not a line
to shuttle up or down, you would be dumbstruck
by her failing powers (she’d fancied me
in charcoal suit her minister, my case a book)
but chastened too. With leaves like that, I can’t relate
a thing, she’d smile. I’m done with lies today,
pull the guard up, and adjust the grate.