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Drinking Tea

By: Shirley Miles

About The Poem

My father died the second day of lockdown and I was unable to visit him in his care home prior to his death. Living alone, the rituals of bereavement were denied me and I grieved alone, with no family or mourners visiting the house nor offering condolences nor cups of tea. Then I dreamt of my father some months later in which he sat quietly and unaware of me, sipping a cup of tea. The tea symbolises the small luxuries of life we take for granted, as well as being what is offered during times of bereavement.

The Poem

I dreamt of you last night, sat as you were
far away from me, drinking a cup of tea.
I watched as you savoured the hot, sweet brew,
your legs crossed as they often were, and I missed you.

And I realised I missed making you tea,
missed having a chat and sharing a memory,
even asking if you wanted a cookie or custard cream,
yet all the time knowing it was only a dream.

I could not take my eyes off you
whilst thinking: I must trim your beard again,
and all those things I once did for you
now taunted me, until I felt strangled by the pain.

Gone were the mutual acts of kindness,
and though invisible, I watched and wondered,
hoped you were okay as contentedly you sipped your tea,
though near to me, yet far away.

But I, the watcher, continued to watch
though you were out of reach.

And out of nowhere a voice reminded me
that this was all a dream
and when I’d awaken you’d be gone
yet I longed again to hear that song

When you’d sing: “You’re my bread, when I am hungry…”
and I’m reminded how you took a slice of buttered bread,
folded over – and in that moment I myself felt fed
(go nice with that cup of tea Dad).

Dad. Dad.
the word rings in my head like a Tibetan bell.
Yet such a short and tiny word
rings forth from such a knell,
and has me reeling with emotion.

Then out of nowhere a black hole grows
coaxing me in to pull you out
as selfishly I need you here beside me
to ask you what this dream is all about.

I want to ask your advice, I want to hold your hand,
and not encounter you in that other land.
I want so badly to bring you that cup of tea;
and so dear Dad, don’t you see…

That I struggle with the absence of you
for your passing was a cruel game,
the first man I loved now gone forever
and I can’t understand…
why there’s no-one here to say your name

It seems this time of plague overshadows
that all important shape of you,
when I just want to know if you are okay
want to know if everything is fine (where you’ve gone),
that you experience another day

and I hope you’re not on your own…

…the way I feel

here alone, with no-one to make me a cup of tea.

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