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Malt loaf

Gaia Holmes

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.


From Staple No 61 (Winter 2004)