Linda France

Bottle

Every mealtime it graced our table
like a candlestick or a vintage wine,

with the salt and pepper, the bowl
of sugar, speckled with amber tea-stains –

our kitchen altar, where we’d gather
round a square of scratched Formica.

In a house without books, it was here
I learnt to read, sounding out the letters,

HP, TM, counting 9 o’clock on Big Ben –
red and blue rubric of the lion who married

a unicorn (my fiery Dad? my sweet Mam?)
by appointment to HM the Queen.

The knowledge of its dark vinegary tang
I sensed was a father’s preserve.

Hungry, I read everything I could get
my hands on, whippersnapper legs

stinging, slapped for asking too many
questions the teacher said was sauce.

Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future. Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer