On Cooking Soufflé
In 1974 Jill Morgan flashed her red knickers
to the boys behind the bicycle shed.
I watched transfixed, their giggles
as unfamiliar as apples to a newborn.
Continued to wear only white knickers
In 1975 I accepted the position
of Second Girlfriend from Simon Taylor
which came with a faux silver locket.
We never spoke, his time spent with First Girlfriend,
Ella, who had creamy breasts and bouncy hair.
She later became a sex therapist.
In 1976 I said goodbye to Emily
beside the grey prefabs.
I didn’t hug her, noticed only her shyness
her navy skirt flat from the iron
toes turned in black patent shoes.
Never saw Emily again.
In 1978 I sat in the front row, eyes forward,
in between Jennifer and Nuala.
White socks pulled to the knee
shirt button closed against my throat.
My hair short and my pencils sharp.
Jennifer became a doctor, Nuala a dentist.
In 1980 I watched my mother
slowly roll black stockings along her legs
spray and step into a mist of Femme by Madame Rochas.
As my father gently closed her car door
she kissed her own lips with ruby tint.
I went out to play soccer with my brothers.
In 1981 I left scholarly ambition at the altar
swapped ponies for boys, kicking for kissing.
Having slowly read Chapter 10
of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I washed
the round green handle of my hairbrush
and took it to bed.
My mother always said:
Never open the oven while the soufflé cooks.
In 1986 my hair fell to my hips, I wore a purple gypsy dress.
I met a curly-haired man who brought me plums
rolled them from the hollow of my throat
to the scallop of my inner thigh.
He unbound me and I burst open
desire spilt out
like pomegranate seeds onto warm hands.
The Tender Intrusion of Mr Gruff
I never knew I loved goats until one came to stay.
He was very gracious, left his bag in the hall,
called for earl grey and some buttered scones.
I noticed his curious eyes, the strength of his haunches.
We talked hours about poetry, food and intimacy.
We avoided the differences between humans and goats.
I never knew I loved goats until he climbed into my bed.
He brushed my hair whilst singing ‘Ich habe genug’ by Bach
in a tenor voice that fell about me like spring rain.
He nibbled my ears with his bamboo shoot teeth,
licked the dimpled space at the base of my spine.
How do goats know about that? I murmured into his whiskers.
I never knew I loved goats until I woke to breakfast in bed
and a poem by Nazim Hikmet inked boldly across my walls.
Hoofprints stained the stairs and he had eaten my laundry,
for which I was grateful, never being fond of the chore.
I went to the market that morning and bought an Afghan coat.
I wear it against my skin on days I know what to expect.
Afternoon Tea with the President
I chose not to wear lipstick,
not everyone wants words shot
through a split plum; besides
Michael seemed like a man who might
weave colour from earthy elements.
I wore my peacock blue dress with
the mandarin collar, ballet flats
a silk pashmina in case of chill.
As I tiptoed up the path (perhaps he was napping)
I noticed daisies littered the lawn like
poached eggs for a tiny king’s breakfast.
Ivy crept at the pillar’s foot, a swallow
nest-building at its crown.
I like a man who lets the wildness in.
The bell pealed within the white walls,
I popped a peppermint.
Thankfully I am not a tall woman,
all manner of boys asked me to dance.
I looked the President in the eye
‘Beidh tae againn sa ghairdín?’
‘Assam nó earl grey?’ he winked.
We had butterfly buns, their tiny wings
cupping raspberries drizzled with elderflower.
I licked my fingers politely.
He recited his poem The Betrayal,
I tilted my head in deference
as someone was definitely dying.
There were one hundred and twenty-five lines
so I called for more tea, gazed at his impassioned
face; he had the look of a young goat.
I admired his throaty inflection,
how his eyebrows had a secret language.
We took a walk, he talked at length
(I am an excellent listener).
Being close to the zoo, his excited
monologues were interrupted
by the spider monkey’s chatter.
‘President Higgins’, Call me Michael,
‘An bhfuil tú ábhar?’ I have no complaints,
he said, adjusting his tie.
Stags grazed beyond the fence,
coronets pointing heavenward.
I slipped off my shoes, urging him to cross.
We held hands and didn’t think of sex
or even friendship, only the clear blue sky
and the animals slightly out of reach.
We were like siblings, lost in some world
where only one could comfort the other.
We talked about our childhoods, our love
of bread and jam. I recited a poem
which made me strangely shy.
‘Did you always want to be President?’
Did you always want to visit one?
Michael checked his watch and startled;
I thought of Alice and her white rabbit.
I closed the gate and heard the world rush past.
Herr Holzbeierlein Shapes the Day
As the whore falls to her sleep
the baker rises to his flour
warms the wood with his stroke
strews the pounded grain
like confetti on the virgin bride
scoops soft pockets for salt
to keep fresh, yeast to encourage
sugar to sweeten, water to endure
palms cup, fingers claim
the pummel and lash is percussion
to the blackbird’s waking song
hand heel urges the yielding form
smelling now of genesis.
Herr Holzbeierlein allows one moment:
perceives goodness, cleanliness, order
the dust from his work but the angels herald
of sonnenblumenbrot, baumkuchen, pumpernickel.
He returns to his seduction
the plump rising of his hands’ caress
heat radiates from oven and man
the sun seeps onto the sill, day breaks like a crust.
Now she turns in sleep, where all is forgotten
skin recovered, warm but acrid
wakes fleetingly, aroused by
the sweet yeasty aroma
that enters her as kindness.
Bobbie Sparrow is a poetry-writing psychotherapist. Her poems have been published in various journals, including Orbis, Crannóg, Skylight 47 and The Honest Ulsterman. Bobbie was a featured reader at Over The Edge in August 2017 and at the Cúirt literary festival’s Far From event in 2018. Bobbie placed 3rd in the Blue Nib’s 2018 chapbook competition.
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