James, at supper

We sit down for a meal
supper really -
it is eight in the evening.
We sit at the round dinner table
our half-family filling three of the four spaces

I play mother, serve the food
Dish spoonful’s of fragrant curry
out of aluminium containers,
tear open the hot brown bags of chapattis.
We divide, remark and begin to eat

Across from me my brother speaks.
Of how his friends have betrayed him
How the girl he loves has shattered his heart,
How his stomach drops out of his body
every time he remembers

He begins to cry: shakes, sobbing into his food
bares his teeth as he weeps
He’s been hurt again.
the child he once was is
superimposed over the man he should be

I watch his mouth move as he tells our mother
he wants to kill himself.
I count his summertime freckles,
see how he froths with hatred as
his anger bubbles over to paint the scene:

He tells of his ex-girlfriend hurt -
beaten, robbed, set alight, shot.
Experience tells me to stay seated at the table.
I offer calming routine platitudes:
Even if you have nothing else, you always have time to change the situation.

It falls on deaf ears
as he vows to change, to use his money wisely:
he has two grand to his name, he spits,
has willing criminal contacts.
my huff of laughter sounds bitter even to myself

Another worry line etches itself onto my mother’s forehead.
This scene has not changed.
I’m still that trapped thirteen year old
detached, deaf, and dumb,
sat at the table, eating supper.