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.