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By Christopher Reid

Little cup of melancholy,
inch-deep well of the blackest
concentrate of brown,
it comes to your table without ceremony
and stands there shuddering
back to an inner repose.
Pinch it: it's still hot.

Soon, its mantle of bubbles
clears, but the eye –
all pupil, lustreless –
remains inscrutable.
Rightly so. This is your daily
communion with nothingness,
the nothingness within things.

Not to be sipped, it's a slug,
a jolt: one mouthful, then gone,
of comforting tarry harshness.
Which you carry now as a pledge
at the tongue's dead centre,
and the palate's, blessed
by both the swallowed moment
and its ghost, its stain.

• From Nonsense (Faber, £12.99). To order a copy for £10.39 with free UK p&p visit the Guardian bookshop


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