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Sport 16: Autumn 1996

Kitchen, Morning

Kitchen, Morning

Here is the kitchen of a house in Mount Victoria,
Forties cream and green with a big wooden table.
Two old people and their little daughter eat here.
A little dog sits on the stairs over there.

The stairs leave the kitchen like a shaft of darkness.
Up them is a living room no one uses much.
There are books, an empty sofa, a sewing machine,
A twangly piano that the child is exiled to.

She prefers to come back down to the kitchen
Where the colour of the lino suddenly reminds her
Of the scummy green colour of polluted Tiber water
In Rome, where she went in 1977.

She arrives back in the kitchen in 1956,
And has breakfast with her father before he goes to work.
He wears a dull suit, a boring tie, a moustache
Dark from smoking. They eat in friendly silence.

These are radio days. Dad listens to the News.
The BBC Home Service is the best news to get.
It has a strange echo sound, the man talks under water.
It goes on for a very, very, very long time.

The news says lots of things about the Suez Canal.
Dad came here in ‘29, but still claims he’s English.
He starts to go on about the end of Britain’s greatness.
His daughter doesn’t want the news to upset him.

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The announcer has a very nice British-sounding voice.
Dad sounds like a New Zealander except when he’s angry.
Then you can tell he’s a Londoner, really.
He says ‘bloody’ and ‘Mondee’, and ‘fire injin red’.

The child is a New Zealander and wishes she were English.
This is because she loves her father best.
Her mother is the parent who hits her with a stick (a lot).
Her mother is the person who speaks the mother tongue.

Mum’s proud she’s a third generation Kiwi,
But she calls England ‘Home’ and is a snob about accents.
If the little girl says ‘mulk’, her mother corrects her,
‘Milk!’ The child is allergic to milk.

Dad will be leaving for work in a minute.
Mum is crashing noisily, she does this every morning.
The child asks her father how the man on the radio
Knows to stop talking when someone turns it off.

Dad explains about radio waves. They can’t get in
If the radio’s off. The child has a thought of little lost birds.
Her father says ‘Cheerio’, and goes out of the house.
‘Don’t forget to pick up the meat’, says his wife.

Now it’s time for the child to walk to school.
It seems to be a very, very, very long way.
Some radio waves flap about in the sky,
Crying bitterly. Many of them live near here.