Sunday, 1 June 2014

A favourite poem by Erik Menkveld


Already when the specimen was being served
adjoining tables stop the digging
of further trenches in the chestnut purée,

the spading of curled-up lettuce leaves
stagnates, wines linger in lifted glasses:
this fish is not the usual feast

of the deep. A revelation,
hauled it would seem from primordial
waters. Though head and tail-fin gone,

seasoned fishermen blinked back their tears
at the sight of breasts, the rudiments
of limbs. How many species had had to

perish for this peerless creature? Or
in it had their origin? But the time
has come for consumption. Uncertain moment:

the chef was faced with a culinary enigma.
How to prepare what’s never been prepared
and in itself is seemingly complete?

Poach, braise or marinate? Superfluous,
an insult. And what then? Do you keep things
simple with seaweed and slivers on toast

or does this call for a complex brandade
for the more demanding stomach? Raw, unsliced
it became, with ostrich egg and shoveller roulade.

Even the sploshing ice-cube water
halts at the point of pouring.
Then the first elected eater places

the first forkful in his mouth. He chews
in silence and unparalleled abandonment. Then
starts to utter ghastly screams. Revulsion,

ecstasy perhaps? He dances round for minutes,
subsiding into baffled staring. Even
after the babas he can’t speak about it.

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