Wednesday, 27 April 2011

David Harsent


As I entered, she had her pinking shears to the backbone,
having dropped the gizzard into the kitchen bin,
and barely looked over her shoulder to see who it was

when I gave the door a little back-heel
then ferreted round in the fridge for an ice-cold Coors
before slipping up from behind to cop a feel.

Another hot day in September, and that the cause
of her half-baked look, brought on
by lying bare-assed in the garden all afternoon,

a flush coming off her, the veins so close to the skin
I could trace the flow like sap, could tongue-up the ooze
of sweat at the nape of her neck: and this the real

taste of her, like nothing before, like nothing I ever knew.
You have to go hard at it, either side of the spine,
all the time bearing down against the sinew,

then lift the long bone entire and get both hands
into the cut, knuckle to knuckle, and draw
the carcass apart, and press, till you hear the breastbone crack.

Looked at like that it’s roadkill, flat on its back,
sprung ribcage, legs akimbo, red side up, and sends
a message (you might guess) about life lived in the raw.

So then it’s a matter of taste: herb-butter under the slack
of the breast, perhaps, or a tart marinade,
to flatter and blend, spread thinly and rubbed well in.

She favoured the latter—that and a saltire of thin
skewers driven aslant from thigh to neck,
which might, indeed, have said something about her mood.

That done, she stripped off, gathering the oils and the balm
she’d need for however long the thing would take,
and went back to her place in the sun. It did no harm,

I suppose, to watch from an upstairs window: a hawk’s-
eye-view as she lay there timing the turn
(face-up till you tingle, then flip) to brown but not to burn.

The marks of the griddle, the saltire, the subtle flux…
We ate it with lima beans and picked the bones,
after which we took to bed a bottle of bright Sancerre

and I held her down as I’d held her down before,
working her hot-spots with a certain caution and care
as she told me not here…or here…but there…and there.

I left her flat on her back—flat out and shedding a glow,
or so I like to think, as I slipped downstairs
and lifted, from a peg-board beside the hob,

her mother’s (or grandmother’s) longhand note on how
to spatchcock a chicken, or guinea, or quail, or squab,
or sparrow, even, with emphasis on that ‘crack’;

and lifted, as well, before I lifted the latch,
myrtle, borage, dill, marjoram, tarragon, sumac,
all named and tagged, in a customized cardboard box.

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