She places the scones in the middle of the table,
smooths the tablecloth with shaking hands
and begins to pour, gripping the teapot
with both hands, perilously close to tipping
the lot down the front of her furs.
The freshly-baked scones, dripping with butter,
waiting for jam and cream, smell delicious
as the wind howls through the conservatory,
melting snow thuds on the roof and the cries
of the beleagured traveller echo from the mountain.
She pours tea onto lumps of frozen milk
as we try not to stare at the scones,
as we sweat in our suits, glance nervously
into each other’s faces, avoid speaking,
rearrange our spoons and forks and listen
to our stomachs growl under our white
starched shirts and immaculate bow-ties.
Cliff Yates' most recent collection is Frank Freeman's Dancing School (Salt Publishing).