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Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
in an oily ellipse.
Hands n’ knees
From Painted, Spoken No 10 (2006)
snuck among broad-leaved green
a shade too deep for suburbia.
Specked purple, extravagance
scarred by wasps, skin
the worked grain of metal.
surviving out in the cold;
blind snouts of avocado
by a record summer,
a stubborn mother.
Inside, they split
under their own sagging weight -
till the edge of the breadboard
brims, bright with their oil
and I bite into polyp flesh
not quite sweet.
It was the dark bread my mother fed me
to pacify my tears.
When I saw it on the kitchen table
I knew it meant departure.
She’d be slicing it into squares,
loading it with butter as he kissed me: as he
gently unhooked my hands from his neck
and walked out to the car.
She’d be laying it in a brown circle
on the big blue plate
as I watched the Renault rise over the hill.
She’d give it me with warm milk and honey.
The butter thickened in my mouth,
spread itself like wet silk in my throat.
I’d mould each slice into a small lump
until the raisins bled black juices
and my fingertips were slick with grease,
I’d squeeze it like the clay he let me play with:
the stuff we dug from river banks
spiced with bracken, loam and willow bark.
My mother would keep slicing and spreading
until I stopped crying: once I ate a whole loaf.
Now the spices seem too sinister for comfort.
The molasses jars my palette, reminds me
of tar, long roads and car doors slamming.
I do not like the taste of desertion.
Some stubborn corn
Refused to pop up
Despite the piping hot sand
Like the bullocks
Round and round
And the ones
That popped straightaway
Found nirvana instantly.