For the Potato

I told my parents you won’t be having

any potatoes

when you come over, you say 

as I swallow peanuts one half at a time over

the phone.

You say things like that sometimes 

not knowing

how I banged my head when I

tipped the scale last summer and lied about

it after.

You’re 29 and this is your first time

counting calories;

you love the numbers, the novelty of them

even as they go up, you laugh in a way I haven’t laughed

about anything.

I have binned five thousand yellow-green

paper towels

dipped in oil, it takes five minutes 

for sun-dried tomatoes and olives to strip

and dry.

The appetite really does come en mangeant— 

rushed in

A bout of gratification and pallid starvation,

A hideous hand-me-down culinary tradition,

given by

my mum, measuring out her carbs with

coffee cups

(often replacing them altogether)

and when night fell on those cheese-platter evenings

I slept

with my earphones on, my thighs apart under

the covers.

Changed the sooted glass of an ever burning

scented candle in the bathroom every morning as

she slept.

Never vanilla or other edibles, only ever

pine-wood

rose-water, lilies – or some other “mindfulness” 

scent as she liked to call them, laughing a

minty laugh.

Your mother’s food isn’t mindful at all,

it’s motherly —

(how many times have I groaned in bed from

a lactose-induced stomach ache?)

she tries

and prepares me separate meals, this is with

your milk

she says as though my milk brought allergies of

its own, lest they should skip the whole-cream milk for

one meal. 

And then there is the potato – how it haunts the 

English cuisine;

like a speech impediment never corrected.

The most hated of all the golden earth-births:

potatoes.

This starchy shapeshifter of a legume is ever present—

Mash, gratin, chips, crisps, golden, sweet, lemony, roasted,

fried, double cooked, boiled, browned, crispy, mushy in all and 

with all.

Your mother makes a mother’s sort of meal,

repetition based—

potatoes and meat potatoes and meat potatoes and meat

so that you might always think of her in your

Proustian moments. 

Your mother’s shepherd’s pie which isn’t shepherd’s pie

at all,

but cottage pie tastes like being nurtured

in a way I’ve never been nurtured before;

not like this anyway

not like this.

It makes me feel naughty the way only

children do,

when the pink smell of the pink marshmallow 

Sauce ripples over the sticky toffee pudding

with a thud.

She remembers what I like and buys it in abundance and

stomach aches

Are normal and not anything dangerous at all

In your home, and I don’t mind the potatoes for that sme

of hers

when the pie comes out just right, and I don’t mind the 

cold fish

on those “Meat-Free Mondays” for your father’s large

hand laying out the cutlery; remembering how I like to eat with a 

small spoon.

I could eat potatoes every day, I want to say 

when you

say things like that sometimes, not knowing how 

I never had a mum and dad even when I did have a mum and dad;

not like this anyway

not like this.

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