Tolkien denounces my pantry
I keep having this dream in which the tin of condensed milk in my cupboard glows with the lustre of precious metal. In the dream, Tolkien denounces me for my abiding obsession with the shelf-stable. He does not approve of industrial foodstuffs. He observes something vaguely blasphemous in the silhouette of the word imperishable. I say, What about the magical bread eaten by the elves that nourishes and strengthens, that never turns mouldy in its leaf wrapper? He says, Are you an elf? Despite his objections, the glow from the cupboard grows brighter and brighter and at the back of my mind I feel the greedy flicker of an abacus. I imagine the condensed milk sealed tight in its tin, folded back on itself endlessly. I imagine its ingenious forging in the fires of the factory and then the weight of all that genius on my shelf. It doesn’t even taste like milk really, Tolkien says but I truly believe it tastes more like milk than real milk. The deep taste you only catch in the back of your nose on an exhale. Tolkien says, What are you saving it for? and I say, I’m saving it for the kind of storm that comes once in a lifetime. A once in a lifetime storm that increasingly comes back year after year.
CONOR CLEARY is from Tralee and lives in Belfast where he is studying toward a PhD. In 2018 he won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. His debut poetry pamphlet, priced out, was published by The Emma Press in 2019.