cup of tea

I'd been invited to Anthony Sperring’s for tea.
Now a cup of tea faced me. I'd never
had a cup of tea before. I was only

Seven. Even his little sister didn't seem
fazed by having a cup of tea, so it was
embarrassing to me that I didn't have a clue

what I was meant to do with it. “Do you have
sugar with your tea, David?” asked Anthony’s
mother. I didn’t know what to say. “Yes.”

“How many?” “Quite a lot.” She puts a bowl
of sugar-lumps on the table in front of me.
It is full. I proceed to make it less full,

wondering if it is all meant for me,
Anthony and his sister watch as I put
lump after lump into my cup of tea.

Then I notice them stirring theirs,
so now I stop plopping sugar in mine
and start stirring too. It is quite thick

with sugar. His sister giggles, “You’ve put in too much
sugar.” The table is set neatly, and I
begin to feel stupid for not knowing

how to do things properly. “No,” I say,
too insistently, “I like sugar.”
I try to enlist aid, even though

my family are not with me for support.
“We all like a lot of sugar in my family.”
“Drink it then,” laughs his sister, pointing

at the sugar-bowl, then at my cup,
when Anthony’s mother comes back into the room.
“I want to see you drink the yucky tea.”

By now I realise I have done something wrong,
and I don’t want to touch the yucky tea.
“Have you ever had tea before, David?”

asks Anthony’s mother, and I cannot tell
whether her tone is accusation or concern.
“Yes, lots. We always have tea in our house.”

It’s a lie, blatant. I’ve never been near a cup
in my entire life. It’s what grown-ups
drink, my mum and dad, aunts and uncles.

Children don’t drink tea. Except for when
they're invited round to Anthony Sperring’s house. 
David McLintock

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  David McLintock would be pleased to hear them.