Somewhere I read that a thought can be exaggerated, while an emotion cannot
The chef at Suntory considers sea-bream for (maybe) ten seconds.
He selects Yellow-fin with absurd red flesh,
smiles at the silver scales;
the dark lines on her back
You’re late and I flick through The Trib, spy a piece on fish scales.
They grow flat, only on skin;
in the lab they form prisms.
Beyond any meaningful depth,
3D is unnecessary and unhelpful.
It’s gone again, that so-easy thing we had for each other.
Unwrapping chopsticks takes forever. I reach for the gold hashioki,
you lean yours against your plate,
watch as a sous-chef with extraordinary hands
mixes fine green wasabi with Tokusen;
folds shavings of pink ginger into tiny glazed bowls.
Strangers sit opposite us and next to us, and we incline our heads
together and at each other, bound by this thing,
this art form we’re watching. Water chestnuts become flowers, strips
of squid are stencilled, fanned into a helix of white,
thrown into clouds of sesame.
Don’t worry; the toughest question is not aimed at you.
Published in Ambit and in The North
The wife of a retired dentist from Antwerp
cooks chicken on Sundays. In November
she brings out V-neck sweaters
that protect him from chest infections.
He will choose the light grey and may not remember
which of the teal or the red he should wear.
The wife of the retired dentist
prepares soup from the gizzard,
adds thyme and two leaves from a bay
that grows by the gazebo.
He pulled the cutting on holiday;
a week by the Aubette or the Alzette.
The dentist remembers a garden, or a hotel.
A man, Pierre perhaps or Philippe,
nodded and told how the green from that tree
would be sweet and the sharp white berries
should be dried. Lay them in layers of paper, keep
them clean and warm. Monsieur, all will be well.
The wife of the retired dentist from Antwerp
sees his face rise to the sun. His round eyes are resting,
almost smiling, thinking of plates
of pale almonds, the pastries they ate
by the roadside, on squares of white napkin.
Or was it soft cheese, fresh and shining with whey?
There was a terrace of cracked creamy slabs;
some stone of the region. And didn’t he lean on a carving
as they spotted canoes, cutting
straight lines through curves in the water.
A dozen boys from Cadiz; a party
of cadets perhaps from l’Academie.
They pitched on boards, crouching with cold
their hands reached up to a bar
nailed to the side of the boat. Ici
Tiens. Ici. Attention, mes fils.
Up they went and over, the river poured
from their hair, their eyes and their lips. Arrêtez! Encore! Encore!
The wife of the retired dentist
watches three inches of lizard. So fine, it is almost
a crack in the rock. She considers the stillness
of her left hand. The lizard nudges and catches the heat.
It stares from eyes that are endless, circled
in white. Quick as a spot it changes its skin from smoke
to black to sand. A pulse is the smallest
First published in Rialto
I know I’ve gone too far when I think of papardelle with broccoli
It comes on just under a minute later that I miss you; that hollow feeling
when I remember you’re not here.
I have to go downstairs, cook flat, yellow ribbons made almost too long
with OO flour and eggs
from Puglia chickens, enjoying themselves and, I hope, walking through
fat fields where the grass is
tough and rich, almost deliberately salted from the Adriatic that silently
seeps into the land just there.
I bathe the noodles in fontina, melted into crème fraîche and think
how you called it sour cream.
It doesn’t matter and would not matter to you that you didn’t
like this dish, but even as I warm
your favourite bowl, I smile at my final stab, add purple sprouting
broccoli, diagonally cut.
You might like the colours, the way the steam holds the flavour,
of Alpine milk and the bitter
black pepper that falls in so many pieces like sand or gravel or ash.
I think we’re OK for salt and I’ll
keep the idea of finely dried thyme, a splash of hock or just nutmeg
and/or butter for next time.