when i was a boy i spelled butter with a tee aitch in the middle
so my undisciplined tongue could ask for toast with it.
buther, BUTHer, BUTHER, please
“Buttered toast, BUTTERED TOAST, say it slow,” she’d say to me.
i wanted it too ravenously to let the word just molasses out of my mouth,
i needed to spit it out as fast as I could, hunger and craving the only feeling.
nothing better than fresh, melting pats
oozing through to the bottom side so i could tilt
my head back and catch with my tongue
the hot drops of my lisped word.
“More buthered toast, please,” – met with her frown,
her disappointment but, eventually, another slathered slice.
eventually the word morphed, long after my lisp was tamed,
from buther to buthered to, lazily and with the same odd movement
that words have gone through and will go through again, bothered.
it became our family’s in-joke.
we didn’t speak much in the last years of her life
but when i visited, helped the helper, cleaned urine around the base
of the toilet bowl or scrubbed the floor that hadn’t been
scrubbed as well or certainly since my last visit
or just sat, holding her tiny raisin of a head on my chest,
she’d ask for her sister (dead fifty years)
or her husband (dead ten)
or why her daughters never came to visit her (I an only child and a boy)
or what time is it
what time is it
what time is it
what time is it every ten minutes sometimes for an entire day
but the only time I cried, sobbed even, heaved and hurt –
the only time was a single moment of lucidity which wouldn’t return again
when she said she was hungry and
could I please oh please have some bothered toast, son