I read this beaut of a poem by Caroline Bird on her Twitter feed and had a go at documenting my own family.
All five of us put our index and middle fingers in a jar,
leave them pickling, like a sausage jar of grace,
so’s we don’t cross them behind our backs
or swear at each other in secret. No fingers at the dinner table.
This does make eating uncomfortable, impossible even.
The plates are brought out lamb-fluff mouldy, the food has sat here for years,
another layer added every time we try to do this.
The carrots could win us a jackpot of coppers
in one of those two pence machines by the sea,
the mash would be better off as hair removal cream.
Next door’s baby makes incoherent baby noises and I want to vomit.
Mum brings in the main; herself cut up and served five ways,
her womb waits the table in black tie, poised like a fire extinguisher.
Dad takes the seat he always takes, the one backless chair,
darkness duct-taped around his brain. He builds a crib out of potatoes.
Callum pulls one of Mum’s hairs out of his pile of pigs in blankets.
If spaghetti could defy gravity, it would be Mum’s hair.
The frog spawn living in the wine pops and gurgles like something fresh with life.
The wind of Callum’s meat-sweat sigh scatters more spaghetti hair everywhere.
Dad hands him the duct tape and he fashions a party hat with it.
Mum breaks the chewy-edged silence to comment on how quiet we are.
No-one really says anything in response. A couple of fingers twitch in the jar.
The unnecessarily red table cloth tries to escape again, Mieke holds it down.
Mieke is the warm spot we all lean towards in times like this.
She joins her arm moles to draw a connect-the-dot gun and shoots herself,
then declares to the room that her eggs are falling out this week.
She and I were in sync, so that settles it. Convinced I am two thirds plural,
under the table I panic google ‘how to induce a termination’,
almost tell them what I’m searching but don’t, and ask for more oranges.
A vitamin C overload is supposed to do it. The womb waiter speaks,
“There’s one past its prime on the kitchen counter.
I’ve been saving it for an occasion like this.”
It is presented to me – bloodied, bitter, blastula, and I gag myself with it.
We ignore the centrepiece of fingernails manically grating against glass,
and finish dinner as if this is all normal.