Bowl or No Bowl – Alexa O'Kane

Every Friday around five or six

your attention drifted from the television

one ear waiting for the door to

seventeen Rossville Street

to open and your father to step inside

his paid pockets promising fish and chips for dinner

if only one of the boys could go and fetch them.

 

You clambered over your siblings, eager to be picked

but your father gave your older brother ten pence

entrusting you instead with the responsibility of the vessel

reminding you there’d be no skimming off the top

and you’d be certain to get the food home warm.

 

You wrapped careful arms around the bowl—

a white ceramic monster you dared not touch

but on chip night—and set out past

Gallagher’s Bookies downstairs

where your father never bet more

than a dollar, cautious not to chase

his family’s money away, and three

doors to the left, over the

site of Bloody Sunday

to Maggie’s Fish & Chip Shop.

 

There, Maggie scooped

until the bowl overflowed

gifting you with the homey warmth

of hot spuds doused in malt.

 

When the other patrons turned away

she tossed in some chips

to keep an extra strip of fish company

in careful newspaper wrappings

and rolled it all up, folding it left, then right

before handing it off to your brother.

 

On the journey home

you reveled in the puffs of salted air

wafting up from the browned contents of the bowl

taking any excuse to dip your fingers into the grease

and shove a handful into your mouth

behind your brother’s back.

 

The first taste was always heaven

its crispy outside melting into butter and vinegar

on your young tongue

worth every second of scolding

if and when you got caught

before pounding back up the stairs

with your precious cargo

for your mother to divide amongst the family.

Previously published in O'Kane's nonfiction poetry collection, Troubles (2021).

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Alexa O'Kane is a senior professional writing major at Champlain College with a specialization in creative writing. She is currently a media team intern at Champlain College Marketing in addition to her work as a music blogger and poet. The majority of her work, including music reviews and transmedia projects, can be found on Alexaokane.com. Her poem "They'll Tear it Down" appeared in Pinnacle Anthology in 2019, and her nonfiction poetry collection, Troubles, premiered May 5, 2021.