Befriending the Butcher – Anna Saunders

Befriending the Butcher

When my father first walked in to the shop,
the pheasant dangling clumsy from a string like a plumy yo-yo,
and asked the butcher how to prepare it for the pot,
he didn’t expect to hear Mozart playing. Or to talk Kierkegaard

as the feathers were plucked. A Thomas Hardy hero
striding the coast before work,
chin cleft like the rocks at the estuary edge,
we thought he’d mark the whole country with his steps.

He spent his days dressing flesh
preparing Primal Cuts and his nights – carving wood,
reading brick-heavy biographies of Larkin or Keats.

Rude health didn’t last till retirement.
We visited him in a bungalow on the other side
of the tracks, his hand-carved bird tables trembling
on long stalks as the trains thundered past.

There we sat, over-shadowed by Victorian furniture,
none of that blood-bled modern stuff,
just oak, or mahogany,
on chairs as dark and immense as the Wagner
which poured into the room, slowed down

by its own heft. Around us – shelves of Folio editions
fat spines emblazoned gold
row after row of corpulent companions
in brass and buttoned regalia.

No longer able to walk, he scored the floor
with wheel chair marks as if ticking items of a list

and the single bar of the fire was a winter sunset;
a thin scarlet line, blazing with its own heat
as it slipped down silently, into the dark.


Anna Saunders is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press) and Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press) and Burne Jones and the Fox ( Indigo Dreams) and the forthcoming Ghosting for Beginners ( Indigo Dreams, Spring 2018). She has received three Arts Council Awards and has been described as ‘a poet who surely can do anything’ by The North  and ‘a poet of quite remarkable gifts’ by Bernard O’Donoghue.

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