It started with the coffee-pot, or maybe

just before that at the moment when

my granny tripped and toppled head-first

down the steps into the House of Balzac.

She was revived with coffee, sitting

like a little rag-doll on the tapestry

of Balzac's chair, as pale as if she'd sat up

all night long to write her masterpiece.

Next door was Balzac's famous coffee-pot,

a white and purple porcelain sitting

primly on its matching warming tower,

just like my granny on a plumped-up cushion.

Against the silence of the coffee-pot,

her chatter percolated through the house

and made me think how fictionally

French she was: Balzac would have loved

to write her sitting at his desk,

recovering her fragile poise after the fall,

the Hermes scarf a little flustered

on her neck, a hair or two disturbed,

but her enthusiastic nose beginning

to enjoy the full aroma of the blend -

perhaps a plot-rich Bourbon/Mokha

like he used to brew himself.

And as the excitation of the coffee grew,

he might have stopped his scribble

for a moment, just to revel in the lovely

rolling r's which she produced.

ABOUT THE POET

Chris Beckett grew up in Ethiopia in the 1960s before being sent over to school in Yorkshire and Surrey. He has travelled widely, worked in the Australian and Japanese trucking and shipping industries, and is currently a sugar-trader by day and a poet by night. His verse has been widely published in magazines and anthologies. He now lives in London.

This poem is taken from his debut collection, The Dog Who Thinks He's A Fish (Smith/Doorstop, pounds 6.95; www.poetrybusiness.co.uk). The title poem won him the first prize in the Poetry London Competition 2001. To order a copy (p&p free to IoS readers), call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897 or post your order to them at PO Box 60, Helston TR13 0TP

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