Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 5, Number 3, September 2011

Jeffrey Harpeng
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Seven Teas—7th Tea
(Assam Dimakusi British Orange Pekoe)

Assam British Orange Pekoe has the colour and sheen of engine oil. On the surface, in a thin film, there's a suspension of tea-leaf dust. More so than most teas, it coats and stains the sides of the cup, coats and stains my thinking.

Ask the tea what it has to say of the thousands shanghaied or lured to Assam, who died, who were ground under by hard labour, hunger and disease, clearing, digging, pruning and picking the imperial plantations.

Assam offers the transience of malty phrasings, mutters over my taste buds. Only silence speaks in a clear voice. Silence, stained like an empty cup, awaits another outpouring.

in my tea cup—rain in me
and my face
in the tea cup
a passing cloud

In Assam there is rain, rain, rain, and every tea bush is an untidy tree. Let us drink to the silences in a cup of tea. Indira Goswami writes, silence can bring / the fragrance of a mother's soul.*

speaking of silence
my mother listens
with a hearing aid,
with one tea bag
makes two cups

As if it was an incomplete metaphor, Assam invites the pleasures of milk and sugar. My mother sets up eddies dropping an artificial sweetener or two.


* From the poem "Pakistan" by Indira Goswami






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