Dinner With My Mother

By Hugo Williams

My mother is saying ‘Now’.
‘Now,’ she says, taking down a saucepan,
putting it on the stove.
She doesn’t say anything else for a while,

so that time passes slowly, on the simmer,
until it is ‘Now’ again
as she hammers out our steaks
for Steak Diane.

I have to be on hand at times like this
for table-laying,
drink replenishment
and general conversational encouragement,

but I am getting hungry
and there is nowhere to sit down.
‘Now,’ I say, making a point
of opening a bottle of wine.

My mother isn’t listening.
She’s miles away,
testing the sauce with a spoon,
narrowing her eyes through the steam.

‘Now,’ she says very slowly, meaning
which is it to be,
the rosemary or the tarragon vinegar
for the salad dressing?

I hold my breath, lest anything
should go wrong at the last minute.
But now it is really ‘Now’,
our time to sit and eat.

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