If I had known that the cup of chai 
my mother asked me, a drifter 
in the kitchen, to make her 
that afternoon, which I 
having blended water and milk 
in such strange ratios 
that when reduced and strained
the tea came up 
to barely one trisection of my pinkie
(that cup was the driest well I saw, 
the lowest tide) so to cover my blunder
I poured raw tap water to flood her cup 
and fled her room before she could 
collect her body, bring lip to saucer, 
had I known that the pale, putrid mess 
I presented, was after all, the only and 
last cup of tea I’d ever make her
would I have suddenly been 
granted the culinary wisdom to brew 
instead the pot with sprigs of lemongrass,
a pod of cardamom, perhaps even 
a prestigious thread of saffron
that I’d sneak from the silver hexagonal box 
she kept hidden behind the airtight jars 
of pricey nuts, and bring her
a creamy drink of complex caffeine, even
make some magnanimous promise 
of offering her tea on tap till she lived 
but knowing me, I know I’d have just 
continued being the spectacular failure I was 
that day, shit-talking my every inability 
out of her sight, embarrassed by failure, 
afraid of consequence and knowing her, 
she would have creased her nose 
at first, then continued to descend 
on the plate with the hopeful pull 
of her slurp, stubborn as she was, 
not willing to peg one finite judgement
of adulation or derision— 
on the cup she was served

Copyright © 2024 by Preeti Vangani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.