Tuesday: a mountain of rice, one roast potato, two pieces of fried fish with bones and skin softened through oil, draped in sour rings of pepper and onion, home made coleslaw, tea.
The plate is piled high and hot before you even take off your shoes:
you may not wash up plates,
you may not serve them first.
This is how my grandparents show their love.
Nanny’s lips purse while she spoons mounds of rice-and-peas onto the plate
Her studied silence except to ask: ‘Is this enough?’
I never want as much as she tries to give me.
I make myself small in the face of their love,
I do not know how to ask for more.
All these things are true at once.
Thursday: chalky boiled yam, dasheen, potato. Wilted lettuce and fresh sliced white onion, tinned tuna with hot pepper sauce, salad cream, white pepper, salt. And tea.
“How much you want Sam?”
They stand over his plate together,
Her metal spoon sings as it scrapes mash from the cast-iron pot.
Her soft black woolly hat meets his thinning salt and pepper pate as they look down.
After 50 years together, they do not always need to say thank you.
Sometimes their outlines blur together.
Sunday: Roast chicken, roast potatoes, rice-and-peas, macaroni cheese, salad, home made coleslaw, mixed vegetables, hard food.
We crowd around the brightly covered table on Boxing Day, we 30.
We jostle, slipping plantain into aunties plate, stealing chicken skin and slopping gravy,
but we fill up the young ones first.
Their plates are piled high and hot – may they never need to ask.
Lalah-Simone Springer is a poet and speculative fiction writer from Dagenham, Essex. Their debut poetry collection, An Aviary of Common Birds, will be released by Broken Sleep Books in August 2023. They also long-listed for the Merky New Writers Prize in 2021 and were part of the first Rewrite Academy cohort in 2020 – a developmental programme designed to support Black Women and Women of Colour writers who are keen to finish their works-in-progress.
Lalah has been published in Ink Sweat & Tears, She magazine, Onyx Magazine, GOAT magazine, Marble Poetry Magazine and on the ANTHEMS podcast. Previous collaborations as a performance artist have been staged at The Barbican and Whitechapel Gallery.