The Servant

Matthew Sweeney

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.