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Pencil & Milk, The Inheritance of 1945, Cappuccino (3 poems)

Pencil & Milk

first published in the Nine Arches Press print journal

I’m not quite pistachio & rosewater

or violets & cotton

let alone vetiver & bergamot

in general the swaddling elegance

of ampersands may be beyond me

but I’d like to envision myself

as blueberry and lavender

perhaps honeydew and mint

on a good day

but I might just be

maple and butternut

pluot and sage

spruce tips and something

that definitely doesn’t go

with spruce tips

I’d like to say that you’re

amber and sandalwood

tobacco and wild honey

vanilla orchid and brisket

passionfruit and pemmican

sweat and cherub tears

I feel like saying

orange juice and toothpaste

(with pulp, and so strong

it burns your mouth)

but you’re not and that would

be a mean thing to say

I am afraid, however

that you are

pencil shavings and milk chocolate

and I can’t be sorry

& no amount of ampersands

will make that better

but at least there is chocolate

and a crispy mouthfeel

which could be an acquired taste

I’m sorry for letting you down

but it wasn’t me

who shaved the pencils

into the chocolate

The Inheritance of 1945

tulip bulbs roasted

on railroad sleepers

no longer feature

on Dutch snackbar menus

but you can scoff down

breaded noodle patties

gravy-stuffed meatballs

mango milkshakes

spring rolls with Gouda

lavish pools of

colonial peanut sauce

the quintessential hangover grub

kapsalon: kebab meat and fries

topped with cheese

and everything imaginable

the punchy patatje oorlog

‘potatoes at war’

when it comes to eating

the war never quite ended here

these hollow giants

wrap deep fryers

as wedding gifts

they easily navigate

a hundred mayo flavours

never sated by

their saté sauce

their histones still hunger

the epigenome remembers

opa’s sunken cheeks

oma’s withered hands

finding warmth

in the embered dinner table

tulips fed them

until the spring

weaved their silky reds

into a double helix

still waiting

to be unearthed


Maltodextrin. Microcrystalline cellulose. Retinyl acetate. A tiny plastic bottle, like it's meant for a baby. This flavor is "cappuccino" (nonna would be horrified). It also comes in sad strawberry and vapid vanilla. Some studies found it helpful particularly in early Alzheimer's.

The overcooked fish is barely salted. I ask if a pan of freshly baked cinnamon rolls, still warm, wouldn't help lift her mood. The nurse looks me in disgust: "But that's just sugar!" Waffles with maple syrup? Empty carbs, when the brain is made of protein and essential fatty acids. I know. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

Maija Haavisto (she/her) has had two poetry collections published in Finland: Raskas vesi (Aviador 2018) and Hopeatee (Oppian 2020). In English her poetry has appeared in e.g. Moist, EcoTheo, The North, Streetcake, ANMLY, Eye to the Telescope, Shoreline of Infinity and Kaleidoscope. Follow her on Twitter at: She has poetry readings available on YouTube at:

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