Filling Up the Static: Hot Tea, Haiku and Two Hands


Published in Farrago Edition Four (2022). 

One of my housemates and I swap bad haiku about our day. What comes out of my mouth is

Sugar in assam
My room is so cold today
Wearing ugly shirt

The shirt has blue and purple stripes. It is an enthusiastic thermal meant for camping and the outdoors where nothing sees you except trees and other people who are wrapped in similarly bright layers. They (the thermals and people) make sure you won't get lost in the forest you are hiking through. They make you incredibly obnoxiously visible and incredibly obnoxiously warm. They find you and wrap you in heat.

I am at home stirring brown sugar into a mug full of Assam tea, steeped so strong it is now a dark red-brown. It is the colour of good rotting leaves. It is warming my hands which are A) clean from a hot shower, B) smelling of the cocoa butter moisturiser my mum has used for as long as I remember and C) cold but getting hotter, because the mug is so full.

I think about my two hands getting warm and about how the record playing now, Two Hands by Big Thief, is maybe getting warm as it spins. (Do records get hot? On an emotional level, yes they do. But on an emotional level, most things can get hot and then cold and then hot again.) This album is sometimes about red-brown tea full of dark sugar granules melting first in the mug and then in your mouth. It is sometimes about a forest you get lost and found in. It is also about My room is so cold today / wearing ugly shirt. The sweet dark things pouring from their (eight) hands (and various mouths, instruments) are words that want to come out of the rich cold mash of the world and into the warm.

The room is not that cold really, but you can sense an eager winter day inserting itself into late autumn in the way winter days often do: politely first, and then less politely. The breath starts steaming gleefully even when the sun is out. Before long, everything is beginning to relearn how to collapse in the cold. The world collapses in order to feed the trees so they will be full and fat in spring.

I could offer the trees outside my window some Assam Bold tea. I would make it strong and sweet in a watering can. I think they would like at least six teabags and six spoons of sugar each. The clumps of dark sugar would melt slowly, but I would be patient. I would ask the limbs if they wanted milk, to which they would likely answer no, and then I would pour the tea gently in careful circles all around the trunks, soaking their cold roots. Small tree tongues would emerge from the earth and lap gratefully (greedily) at the pools. I can hear it. When the tea hits the frosty grass there is a great hissing. The frost turns to steam and rises noisily to kiss my face. They like its sweetness. I drink my tea outside in the winter day and the trees drink theirs and we slowly fill with heat, and then our cheeks go very red in the cold. Bright leaves on our tired faces change into new things. My cheeks are turning red and my two hands grow warm and my shirt is blue and purple and ugly and I do not get lost in the forest. I am wrapped in bright fabric and easy to find, even in the dark. It is so sweet.

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