|Marianne Burton is a prize-winning British poet|
The Army Cook in Pevensey
I am worn out dreaming of limbs
I lost at Thermopylae at Gallipoli
in Helmand Province
in Al-Zubayr near Basra;
limbs that were not mine but hurt
when they were ripped away.
I fed them all, carved melons for them,
baked little cakes in the cooling ashes
of that morning’s breakfast fire,
went out into the woods at night
to kill what lurked in the dark,
soundless, selfless, sleepless.
Now I lie alone listening
half-cock to the cry of sheep
in the blue-blur of winter.
Batteries de cuisine chime
in the play of marsh air.
Cutlery sleeps in its tarnish.
The castle here is crumbled,
the walls maggot-eaten
like Sardinian cheese.
Tourists worship a rind.
From the window I watch owls
rotate against each falling dawn,
I plan feasts for the dead –
nettle risotto, chestnut velouté
with powdered goose –
I hear laughter as I hand down plates,
Jacky, Sammy, Sebby,
Marty, Joseph, Jonathan.
What last night love fed, has fled,
leaving the feeder hungry.
Only the rhythm of my blood
still beats, as these hands ache
to cut and pummel flesh again,
to skin and draw.