Listening for the Kettle


The kettle in our house makes a sound when it's done: an electronic rendition of steam whistling through a tight valve.

The first note strikes tinny, petulant, mood-curdling. Then comes a half-hearted crescendo, the pitch sliding up from the first note about two and a half tones, never quite enough to round out in the ear… not quite… and then back down, a pathetic deflation, as though the kettle were apologising for trying. 

I can’t throw it out. My husband brought it home eighteen months ago. He unboxed it on the kitchen counter and held it up to show me the model name stamped on the base: Bilbao. The city in which we fell in love. 

“Now every time we have coffee we’ll have that memory too,” he said, beaming and proud of himself. 

We kissed. I forgave the kettle for being lime-green. His kiss teased from me a kiss with more intent, which kindled his intent, Bilbao on our lips, our recollected love gathering and lifting off like leaves in eddying wind. Our daughters were at a birthday party. We went to bed. 

I half-napped afterward, happily and guiltily. Then I heard the kettle. 

Once you hate a sound you can’t unhate it. I’ve tried, for 18 months, to condition myself to be struck by love at that whistle. But disgust is quicker than memory. I hate it. I hate its ambition to imitate nature. I hate that you can’t toggle the sound on and off, and that when you take it off the base before it boils it whistles anyway — such contempt for nature! I’ve pictured a thousand times the team at DeLonghi who designed the thing, slouching in a boardroom, limp-willed and tired and useless, nobody brave or exacting enough to say, No, no this cannot stand, it sounds really fucking annoying.

I’ve even resented my husband, sometimes, for the perfection of his gift. He imbued the most quotidian of objects with the seed of our love. I’ve envied his pleasure at starting each day with ‘a cup of Bilbao’.

But now he is gone. He said he loves someone else. I lie in bed each morning already awake and sensing it near to 6.20am, the time when his making coffee used to serve as my alarm, and resist a glance at the clock. I burrow into the duvet and pillows the way I've always done, hoping that by ritual I will summon the sound of the kettle.   


Where Love Is

for Kim and Tom

Where can love exist?
they wondered, as soon as it arrived
in Melbourne, 

She was a catch
except for one flaw; an Aussie. 
He was dreamy
but unfortunately English. 

Not flaws at all — charms, delights — 
were it not for space and time.
He was leaving. Back to Blighty.
In six short months which might be
enough time to fall in love, 
but to what end? 

Though hearts can find new homes,
Melbourne isn’t
Manchester and London
isn’t Sydney. 

Where can love exist?
they wondered, apart from here and now. 
How could they cherish ups and downs
if down was up and up
was down under and

Will love exist there and then? 
In all permutations of theres and thens? 

A future full of either/ors,
a life unsure, for sure.
A romantic entanglement
to make the brain ache as keenly as the heart. 

Best stick to here and now, then.
Stick to one another.
He’d stay longer in Melbourne, of course.
Some day she’d try London, of course. 

And whenever big decisions came,
they found their love was bigger. 
They found what all along was true: 
there was nothing to decide. 
Their love was quantum.
It existed everywhere —
in all of space and time, at once
in Melbourne and Manchester,
under Aussie sunlight or Kim’s bright-light,
she’ll be right, mate,
because here is there and then
was now, and now, and

And now to know where love exists,
to see the future, to see beyond the stars,
they just look at one another.
Eye to eye. Dimples to dimples.
Where love is.