I am a child. In our yellow kitchen
before school she whistles breakfast
from the London smog and plates up
marmalade on toast. Smoke and
oranges. In class we do a project on
our family. In French, I tell the other
children, galette means a sort
of pancake, but don’t mention
the gifts mother leaves in the oven
for me to find on winter afternoons.
Every day, I say, my mother judges
men in white who try to please her.
Sometimes she has to raise her voice,
and this is why she never shouts
at home. Yesterday a grown man wept
because his panna cotta was not as sweet
as another’s. Thou shalt not covet
thy neighbour’s panna cotta, intones Elspeth,
whose mother is a Christian, and who
doesn’t understand cooking. At the end
there is questions. Do you love your mother?
asks Mrs. Godbehere. Yes, I say. Mother
always uses that word, love, in front of men
she hardly knows, but I’m certain
she means it when she says it because
of how it sounds, like lhov, like fondant
sinking under spoons. Why do you always
speak in food? asks Elspeth. I do not
like her. She doesn’t understand. I rub my eyes
and cross my legs upon the mat:
Because I cannot speak in words.
Imogen Cassels is from Sheffield and is currently reading English at Cambridge. She was a Young Poet on the Underground in 2015, and in 2016 was a winner of the Poetry Business New Poets Prize. Her poetry has featured in Blackbox Manifold, Ambit, The Literateur, and The North.