Tuesday Poem

Storming Teacups

I sit with friends outside the café, cup in hand, and fix the world’s problems. I am the cappuccino kid, frothing with anger. I am the peppermint tea with honey, busybeeing everywhere.

I start to collect china as others gather books. My coffee cups speak volumes. I have a small expresso cup, decorated with Aboriginal designs. Is this how I visualise Aboriginal issues? A storm in a coffee cup, a far-off cyclone in Darwin? A Town Called Redfern, where blood has stained the concrete, as there isn’t much wattle around? I sip, and cradle the fragile, storming cup, enjoying my bitter short black. My frown replicates the lines on the cup, as does my smile.

I have a larger, more solid cup which boasts a kangaroo and emu rampant, and the words “Commonwealth Parliament”, proud as any bumper sticker. This capacious cup and saucer was Made in England. It says so on the base. This is a cup for Indian tea, a cup for colonial sipping. I wear a long white dress, a hat to shade my skin and I practise swooning. The cup, however well made, seems to be cracking around the sides, and a small cleft runs from the word Made past the emu. Surely my firm cup will not break, my crest shatter? I delicately place the cup back on the saucer, and the fault-line is hidden.

I have an old cup which says “Buy Nicaraguan Coffee”. Now that things have changed again south of the biggest border, which coffee should I buy? Perhaps the one that tastes the best. A favourite cup of mine is the one that states “Freedom for Women: Women for Freedom”. The tea-lady pours her liquid into this cup, but somehow she doesn’t look particularly free. Her tea makes me insatiable, and the phrase “dry as a witch’s tit” is conjured up from the steam, cloyingly.

But who would smash a cup? They are useful. They are decorative. I stroke my china pets, these devices for drawing boundaries between air, liquid and table. My extrovert cups hold in our conversation, delineate the possible from the flowing surge of ideas. We sit, cups in hand, painting new worlds like flowers on porcelain. I put out my little finger to hook the fishy thoughts which fly from the cup, through the air, challenging our demarcations.


This work (prose-poem? creative non-fiction?) was written way back in the Old Days of 1993, and published in Blast magazine. This brings back so many memories, not least of one of the friends mentioned in the first paragraph, Lindsay Croft, a young Aboriginal man killed in a car accident in the United States while visiting Native American reservations, about a year after I wrote this piece. This gives the work a far more bitter taste, for me, than it would otherwise have.

For excellent poetry fixes, go to the Tuesday poem site. They’re be everything from expresso to latte, I can assure you.