Helen Freeman

The Open Mouse

On the Back Burner

I crush roast beans with my pestle
then throw grounds into water on a high flame
stirring till the colour succumbs and bubbles.
Bitterness rises within.

As I brew Madam’s coffee,
she engages in more crucial matters –
manicures and massage, her driver’s lateness
and yet another Riyadh wedding invitation.
The employer’s affairs, they say,
are not for me to censure.
I must learn my place. I must salute.

I stir and stir to prevent the overflow
that leaves such a splatter to scrub –
there’s a clasp here to master.
I drop cardamom pods into the darkness
adjusting the scent, and I’m home:

the bombs, my father under Aleppo rubble,
the hawk who sometimes hooked
meat from my palm long gone,
my inheritance expunged.
Count to ten. Breathe Dad always said
but look where that got him.

Heat dissipates, coffee cools
in the pot of…

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