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do not be lulled by the dainty starlike blossoms


at the radiance tea house on 55th

we watch jasmine pearls unfold in our cups

meaty   labial   aroused

i tell you two stories about shame and rage:


there was no dinner for a week

after i mentioned liking girls

so i rode my bike to the jasmine takeaway

with stolen money and stared at koi carp

and a picture of a chinese river from above

while my chips were cooked—

quickly & without any shouting or crying—

and when the server came with my food

i was so ready for punishment i thought

her thank you sounded like fuck you


on a wooden table that widened

for christmas and collapsed for new year

i was told to eat until i could see the river

with the two people in conical hats

standing on a bridge at the bottom

of my blue bowl—the only one safe enough

to touch with my favorite spoon—

tricked every time into seconds

“and what do you say to your father?”

my fuck you sounded like thank you



Rachael Matthews is a psychotherapist working in New York, and previously worked as a radio newsreader. She was a runner-up in Mslexia’s 2013 Women’s Poetry Competition, judged by Kathleen Jamie.


Carol Ann Duffy says: I like the light humour of Matthews’ poem, the mix-up of ‘thank you’ and ‘fuck you’, and the capturing of childhood experiences with food and ritual. The use of lower case works to indicate that the poem is a fragment of memory.


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