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).
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.