In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

The ServantMatthew Sweeney
Close
Close

I am summoned: a double handclap
from my mother’s ivory hands
and I fill the silver tureen
with pumpkin soup the colour of oranges.
I enter on feet of air.
Her smile subsides like a wave on sand
pointing me towards the curtain
of mauve velvet where I must stand.

Wine is shared. A toast to mother
updates a grace before meals
then the ladle becomes a wand
and oohs climb from warmed stomachs.
My timing is pre-set –
I conjure the plates away
to return, hidden by conversation,
with shark fillets in lime and butter.

I picture the absent fins and teeth
and a red dye in the sea.
Remove the bones, wheel in a trolley
on which a boar, freed from the spit,
sits in a juniper sauce.
Another wine now, old and crimson
then marble potatoes, celeriac matchsticks
and olive lentils pureed in butter.

I bring dessert, despite protests –
its exact identity mother’s secret
though I smell figs and honey
in a foam the lightness of clouds.
Dispatched to the kitchen to grind coffee
I glance at the night through glass –
a slide where the stars are dandruff,
the moon a fingernail-clipping.

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