the kitchen


The first thing I learn about you in the kitchen is that it’s impossible for us to cook together without contemplating double homicide
On the second day of lockdown you go out for “essentials” and return with 100 tea bags
You have the gene that makes coriander taste like soap
You don’t like capsicum and you hate peas
“not the taste, the texture”

You make food the same way you do everything else:
Meticulously, diligently
I make defiant mounds of mashed potatoes because my mum didn’t let me have it growing up
I leave all the heating elements on and I burn the onions
But you eat my haphazard sandwiches anyway

The fourth thing I learn about you in the kitchen is that your mum’s name is Jenny
She teaches chemistry and you dropped it in year 10
You have a brain for science though, you relish fact and trivia and the pantry of your mind is stocked from Thursday night viewings of ‘The Chase’ with your dad
I inspect a carrot I’m peeling and say “did you know it would be as easy to bite through a finger as this carrot?”
“That’s just not true. Human bones are as strong as cement”
You like mushrooms, unsweetened peanut butter (gross) and lemon, lime and bitters
You also like pointing out settings I didn’t know existed on the microwave I’ve had for 6 years

You mourn my lidless pots and lack of wooden spoons
But you only laugh when I come home with lots of muffins and no bread or milk
Start helping me draw up our grocery lists and reach around me routinely to turn down the heat on the onions
I slot away the cutting board and forget the state mandated for us to be here

The 17th thing I learn about you in this kitchen is that you’ve learned where the vegetable peeler lives and how I like the plates and bowls stacked
There’s familiarity somewhere in the way you know my cupboards and I want to sit and grow fat with it
But we’re already entering round 2 of the great carrot-finger-chomping debate
“Since when can you bite through cement??”

There’s a pandemic raging just outside the kitchen window
but it’s misted safely over with steam from the kettle you seem to be constantly boiling
for tea, or for soaking the pans overnight
You shell garlic and I throw away the peels
I facetime Alex while I cook chicken and you pop your head in to say hi

We have our first fight in this kitchen and you eat your pie quietly even though it isn’t properly defrosted
We make up and you make marinade for the steak
I put garden flowers in an empty bitters bottle for the middle of our dining table
And melt with the vanilla ice cream you scooped for me

The 23rd thing I learn about you in our kitchen is that you like your steak rare
I’m talking blood-oozing-out rare (“it’s not blood it’s myoglobin” “isn’t that just another name for bloo-” “No you’re thinking of haemoglobin”)
You grimace as I triumphantly make you cook mine bone dry
You make fun of my “garbage noodles” for weeks but when I mess up chicken fried rice
You fill your plate twice and eat every last mushy bite

The 39th thing I learn about you in our kitchen is that you don’t really ‘do spice’
But you’re appreciative of my curry regardless and you’re adding three, four
five chillis to your own creations
You tell me why your sister hates her job and I tell you why I stopped talking to my dad for three years
I receive never-ending lectures on the dangers of blunt knives and never-ending cups of warm tea
The seal on the oven door is broken
We warm ourselves in the heat that escapes and try to teach abandoned ducklings to swim in the sink
You’ve stopped making choking noises when I use scissors to cut up mushrooms
And I’ve forgotten all about the virus-infected streets outside

The 52nd thing I learn about you in our kitchen is that on days you can’t pull yourself out of bed, you count to five then get up
I swing my legs back and forth over our counter while you’re frying up mince
I breathe in that good garlicky tomatoey smell and your shower-wet hair
“I’ll give you two options” you inform me seriously, adding milk to warm the day-old mashed potatoes
“We can watch a film tonight or an episode of The Undateables”

One of these days there will be fewer people in the hospitals
You’ll go back to making dinner at an address we don’t share
And the kitchen
will just be a place I make myself food

I’ll slather my toast with unsweetened peanut butter and make tea the way I’ve seen you do it 100 times
I’ll count to five then let you go



first published in the friday poem

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Reasons for liking


I’ve been thinking lately how 

impossible it is to break liking 

into small, discernible pieces 


You bring me lots of things 

happiness and onion soup, a cardholder 

so I don’t lose my credit card for a record number 

of three times this month 


You make me (chronic insomniac) 

want to hurry home to our mattress 

You have made, even sleep 

less tiresome 


Yet I think my reasons for liking might lie in what I want to bring you 


I try to sleep well so I can do ‘the awake’ well 

I try to read well so I can speak well 

for the sole purpose of making you do ‘the crinkly eye smile’ 

I go for walks 

(because you’ve demanded I leave my room more) 

I eat what I see and file it under 

‘things to tell Oscar’ 

so you can know what it tastes like too 


I’ve been thinking lately that I live well 

and my reasons for liking might lie in how 

I live well for you




first published in turbine

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for those who misstep


I want to show my little girl all the places I failed
in this peculiar, good-sad world
The well-intentioned cardboard prisons with bottle-cap water dishes
Here, I made nests of hand-picked leaves
and lovingly I killed many ladybirds

I will tell her I think her warm, good and wonderful
and this, of course, makes her no less capable
of causing deep and great hurt
There are painfully white classrooms
where I punished young and precious women
for being more Indian than I ever let myself be

If she loves the fairytales we read before bed
that divide neatly
the wolf and the girl
under running faucet, I’ll show her clumsy palms
still sticky from the people I’ve mishandled
When she sees the promises of safekeeping I made them
still burning acrid on my tongue
Perhaps, she will understand then
All girls have wolf teeth

I will tell her of the two very different roles she will play
over and over in other people’s stories
I will tell her
This is unavoidable
Let your petal heart touch many, as softly as it can
but never crumple under the weight
when you fail some of them, as inevitably you will

When you do misstep, linger
Feel how it aches in your lungs
When you do misstep
remember each breath is opportunity still
to be something more than the pain you caused
There is so little in this world you cannot come back from

I will tell her, fail big
Find places you’ll take your own daughter some day
As long as you return twice as large
in the knowledge of your own shortcomings
some compassion for your fellow sinners
Remember there are no bad people
Just those like you and I; always trying, sometimes lacking
consistently glorious.


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