December began with shopping

for the exotic: mint and apple sauce,
imported rosemary, cranberries, candied
peel and blocks of English butter.

It began with baking, the Christmas cake
drenched daily with dark brandy
until it oozed from the lightest finger-flick

and emptying jar after jar
of Robertson’s mincemeat into pastry.
Cinnamon gold-dusted everything.

After the final Advent window,
we opened all our doors,
welcoming hungry occupants, their cars

filling up the driveway, aunts and uncles,
cousins in greater and lesser iterations,
the generations dressed in batik, bearing gifts.

The kitchen was ever at the heart of it.
My parents cooked together.
Crackling, perfection an inch thick

on the side of pig that Dad roasted
while Mum beatified the oven-pan,
red wine gravy, bliss of roux.

Cheerful, family sat where we could,
plates heavy in heady heat, heaped
meat, golden potatoes, peas, carrots too.

Our hands were full. Still there was more,
glasses, cups, Anchor beer and Sunkist,
hot kopi, Cointreau, joyful chatter,

mince pies with cream, walnuts
to crack and chocolates to unwrap.
Dad asked again, again and

again if we’d enough to eat
until decidedly replete, my extended family
levered to their feet, departed noisily.

Day cooled to a close. Dusk drifted quiet
through rooms to settle on stacks
of washing up glinting in the sink.

It was always good, that stillness,
sky kissed with flecks of light,
night unbuttoning its mysteries.

by L. Kiew

‘December began with shopping’ is copyright © L. Kiew, 2019. It is reprinted from Christmas Spirit: Ten Poems to Warm the Heart (Candlestick Press, 2019) by permission of Candlestick. You can read more about the pamphlet here.

L. Kiew lives in London and is of Chinese-Malaysian descent. She works as an accountant but finds time for poetry and her work has been widely published in magazines including The Scores and The North. Her debut pamphlet The Unquiet was published by Offord Road Books in 2019. Find out more about her work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Candlestick is a small, independent press based in Nottingham and has been publishing its sumptuous ‘instead of a card’ poetry pamphlets since 2008. Subjects range from Birds and Cricket to Tea, Kindness, Home and Puddings. Candlestick Press titles are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, as well as by galleries, museums and garden centres. They can also be ordered online at  Candlestick’s website where you can find out more about the full range of titles. You can follow Candlestick on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. In 2018 Candlestick sold over 75,000 pamphlets.

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