(The Bunting’s Aria)
Some years ago I read, I think in Time,
a minister of India, its prime,
had mentioned he liked drinking, mornings, neat,
his urine fresh from, as it were, the teat.
‘Flibbertigibbet,’ I said. ‘It’s time Time’s sued
for passing water tales that wee bit rude.’
The minister left chambers; others fill
his shoes, inserting dry hands in the till.
When Time passed on to buying CNN,
the torch passed to the Sunday Times, wherein
a hack wrote that Mitterrand, the week he died,
enjoyed a meal where he and friends had tried
a table sports event, a biathlon
not needing skis nor skeet but a snuffed ortolan.
They plunged each bird headfirst in Armagnac
then roasted song and body until black.
Eyes watered by his self-imposed scotoma,
each diner cloaked his head to boost aroma
then bit his (the bunting’s) head off, closed his (own) mouth,
throat tight to stop the song from going south.
Each epicure, alone in his own organdie,
filled his mouth (and the ortolan’s) with burgundy
for twenty minutes till the bones were felt
as being up for downing, for heads are slow to melt.
I think that I’ve been banned from Saint-Galmier.
The horrid rains that washed us down from Beaune
had stopped, but lengthy queues along the motorway
persuaded us to leave it in Lyon.
We cruised the D-routes till the dwindling day
conspired with tiredness and ennui to hone
our interest in hotels marked tranquille.
Saint-Galmier had one, for our ordeal.
The room is white, innocuous, and clean.
It opens on a garden with tall trees.
The pool is in the garden. Yes, we’ve seen.
And will one take one’s dinner here? Yes, please.
Apéritif? A sherry’s peachy keen.
That’s sherry brandy, waiter. Please surcease
insisting that we ordered it. La carte
before the hors again. Think of my heart!
Bad dinners in this country are bad luck
but happen once or twice each twenty years.
Tonight is one such time: the sous chefs pluck
the quail I planned for dinner to its ears
then poach it with the salad in the buck-
et used for chilling wine. The bird appears,
much as its mother knew it, with its head.
I plop it in the bucket, go to bed.
Gargantua ate all of the first course
except for the feathers and beaks.
When the brasserie brought out a mouse mousse
he got it all down but the squeaks.
The thrushes were rushed so he skipped them,
Gargantua wolfing instead
a spitted Dalmatian he’d spotted
on the buffet. He asked for its head.
‘If I can’t,’ said Gargantua belching,
‘look at what I eat square in the eye,
I’ll give up my Ogre A rating
and subsist on alfalfa curd pie.’
I told you the dirt in the cup
was coffee and you drank
the milk believing me
until you read these lines
although they’re really true
or were until the plover,
perhaps a gull, flew over.
Few peoples famed through history for cuisine
admit to menus featuring the cat.
Are Archestratus and I being mean
when we allude that you’ve been doing that?
‘I served you hare!’ you say. It was a bit
overdone at centre, and as shellacked with ‘cheese
and lees, and dregs of oil,’ as Classic Lit.
has taught us he recorded. And the knees
of the beast you served us bent not like a hare’s.
What game was up and hanging in your snares?
Reflecting on the poem HARE on Archestratus (4th century BCE) who was known, some say, as the Daedalus of tasty dishes, and who may have written the world’s first cookbook. In HARE he wrote, ‘… All other ways [of cooking hare] / Are quite superfluous, such as when cooks pour / A lot of sticky clammy sauce upon it, / Paring of cheese, and lees, and dregs of oil, / As if they were preparing cat’s meat.’