(Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Tea calms, it quiets, it focuses me in my work. Most times I make tea, it’s at home heating up water over our stove. Since my sister recently banished our microwave for environmental reasons, I watch water boil slowly coming to a simmer in the black pot. We’re all saying we’re going to buy a kettle but no one does. When it’s done I pour the water over the brown tea bag, add sugar, milk, and tote it off to my desk. I start writing, keep drawing, or just stare out the window and sip. Tea’s good fuel for creating. It leaves good time for being slow.
Ireland had me take my tea social. When someone asked me tea, it took me a bit to realize they weren’t asking me to sit silently across from them and look thoughtfully down at the table. They were asking me to have a conversation, probably in some glorious nook or cranny, tucked away from the cold for a while.
At the Tea Garden
My friend and I mull over the teas
displayed in square jars
with beveled glass labeled by type.
Each name seems part of a haiku:
“After the Snow Sprouting.” “Moon Palace.”
“Mist Over the Gorges.”
I’m drawn to green teas
with unoxidized leaves that don’t wither,
hold their grassy fragrance
like willow under snow in winter.
The proprietor offers real china for the Chinese tea.
Animal bones, fine ground, give whiteness,
translucency and strength
to the porcelain that appears delicate,
The rim of the cup is warm and thin.
My friend’s lips are plush: her lovely
mouth opens to give advice I ask for.
We talk about memory of threshold events,
like a first kiss or a poem published.
She can’t remember…
I tell her about my brother-in-law’s
chemotherapy—his third bout of cancer.
He wants his family to put a pinch
of his ashes in things he liked:
his banjo, the top drawer of his desk, the garden.
I wouldn’t mind becoming part
of a set of bone china that serves tea
in a cozy teahouse smelling of incense,
cinnamon, musk, and carved teak.
I’d like to be brought to a small table,
sit between friends’ quiet words,
held in hands so close that breath
on the surface of warm drink
makes mist rise over their faces.