Bio Note: Much of the appeal for me of reading a poem by an American writer is in the unique and attractive “American-ness” Thus, when I send poems from Wales to American editors, I suspect that my best bet by far is to leave the particular British and/or Welsh detail intact. This present poem is about the currently universal theme of lockdown, but connects it with the very specific instance of the “lockdown” experienced in Britain during World War Two.
I suppose that when we say “poached salmon” we mean it’s simmering, in foil. And then we add lemon juice. But back in those days, our place, we meant the salmon from the stretch of river that ran through Big House estate. Oh yes, we poached and foraged then. We were an organic age. The leaves of the hawthorn tree we chewed, we called them bread-and-cheese. Blackberries, goosegogs. We encouraged our dogs to eat grass, called the dog’s best medicine, saved calling in the vet. And the whole Lane would crave for Mrs. John’s tomatoes, raised on the purest chicken-shit. When I went back a generation on, two generations nearly, they were feeding off frozen beefburgers and oven chips, travelling on Saturdays to Swansea and the national retailers. The organic thing, sustainability, meant incomers with beards. But here’s a lockdown story for you .. Sydney is caring for his granddaughter, home-schooling for the week. The teachers have mentioned family history, and he’s found his mother’s ration book and Wartime Recipes. So he and Cheryl cook potato piglets, made in ’42 from sausage and potatoes. (Today’s potatoes were grown in Sydney’s garden. The sausages came from Tesco.) I’ve found the apple corer, Cheryl. The book says remove a centre core, using an apple corer, from the length of each potato, and stuff the cavity with sausage meat. Bake in the usual way. (Got that? The baking tin? Oven?). Arrange the piglets on a bed of cooked cabbage. In his garden, the rows of spuds are half-opened, and the rooks are wheeling harshly away into the white-grey sky of a blustery summer.
©2020 Robert Nisbet
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