The Funeral of the Bees

The Funeral of the Bees

 

In tiny caves under the eaves

dark bees mass in a dense cotillion

head to head in mathematical degrees

Euclid’s children angle

and pose in a primal strut.

 

Here they entertain the ruler of their kingdom

here they lay the gold of their labours

here they seize power for their queen

here they stuff their ears with wax

sleep in hexagons and sticky cells.

 

Confronted by the swarm,

I throw cinnamon and garlicky water

vinegar and powdered cloves

on their coruscating buzzcock wings

to push them to the fringes of my yellow baking land.

 

Still they lay claim to my house

to jazz their diurnal dance by my front door

they return day after day until

fear and impatience makes me spray a napalm

that drops them where they jive.

 

At noon around the blackened bodies

a party of pallbearers hum

a vast primordial requiem

and with this I am stung by battlers

dying quietly for their great dark queen.

 

Derrinallum 01/2018

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The Reluctant Vegetarian 2

bullant

Sandwiches.

Think bush walk, ants, snakes then think safe clean beach, think young dog, small children, great expanses of white sand only accessed through stairs…lots and lots of steep winding stairs up a cliff.

Who wants to tote a bloody huge wicker basket a la Wind in the Willows? Old Ratty and Moley tottering down a cliff clutching a basketful of mean cucumber sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer?

NO. I said NO!

When I was a kid this same beach, The Step Beach at Airey’s Inlet was ours and exclusively ours. No-one else came there much back in nineteen hundred and frozen to death. It was our joy our territory our freedom and if someone did venture down those terrifyingly treacherous steps unfit for 5 y.o. legs or 60 y.o. legs they’d be met by a bunch of rowdy tousled kids clutching smelly sardine sandwiches gone crisp at the crust with oil and the day’s heat. They stank but attracted cats and other assorted wildlife or there might be Peck’s Anchovy Paste or Camp Pie or best, Steak and Onion from the tin sitting dark and fat between slices of Tip Top white bread.

On a good holiday mum might make egg and lettuce and she’d mash the egg with lots of salty butter and pepper. So yum.

The wildlife to be terrified of were bull ants. HUGE red and black bastards they’d drag you away in your sleeping bag Gulliver like and certainly chomp into your sandwich with whatever filling it had without hesitation. They were everywhere back then but I didn’t notice a single one last Sunday when we all trooped off in a convoy to The Step Beach for a picnic and a swim. I also didn’t notice the sand dune we’d whoop holler and somersault down, all eroded to rock now and likewise the flowing creek had dried up, the rock pools were virtually devoid of life but somehow it didn’t matter. We were there on a glorious day laughing and having a swim in that cold effervescent water. Then there were our sandwiches, lots of them.

The best one is the unparalleled Super Salad Sandwich; the SSS.

Here it is:

FRESH white bread or wholemeal if you must but nothing grainy or fancy pants artis-anal.

Last Tango in Paris style, spread liberally spread with butter. If you do margarine then best to eat a pie and sauce or watch another film, even Iron Chef.

So I digress.

One buttered side also gets Masterfoods Hot English Mustard and the other piece a blob of homemade harissa Mayonnaise (recipe later). The quality of the mayo is critical for if it is a cheapie it will ruin your sandwich so go for Best Foods or Thomy or make your own, lazy bugger, it is EASY.

Now pay attention class as we go on, otherwise it won’t work and will go soggy or fall to bits.

On the mustard side put ham, a nice smokey one. On top of that put the thinly sliced tomato pepper and salt, surprisingly more than you would normally.

Then place very thinly sliced cucumber, grated carrot here and if you like raw onion which is terribly bossy it should go here too, then Edgell tinned beetroot which I prefer since it is not too sweet and not too vinegary.

Then comes the cheese and here is an important point, don’t go fancy here, if you do anything like camembert, washed rind or God forbid, d’Affinois it will totally ruin the sandwich and certainly don’t use a sharp cheddar, it should be cheapo sliced cheese in plastic wrap. This is because of its tendency to soften and acts as a meshing of flavours and as a kind of glue.

You end with a crisp iceberg lettuce which is lying against the mayo like a crisp green blanket tucking all the children into bed.

You will also have to be firm with it compressing it down with your whole hand as you cut with a sharp bread knife.

Wrap it in plastic wrap really tightly and enjoy it wherever you are but best avoid the wildlife…to be continued

‘Wherein Chris causes a domino effect fall off the cliff after putting his hand on a bull ants nest’.

 

 

The Reluctant Vegetarian

fat-bastard

Incrementally, I have become vegetarian not by any particular virtuous route but because of a selfish one, I’d like to live longer and eating a plant based  diet means this is more likely and incidentally I feel better for it. All my old digestive issues have disappeared, no more the gross gaseous cloud emanating from between my buttocks stuttering out an SOS to the kitchen gods, no more my belly like some acid magma chamber venting up into my throat. I’m done with that now.

After my diagnosis last May I got radical with everything and became a superfood junkie. That got rather expensive and inconvenient as I lived out of a suitcase for the year I was on treatment going from house to house like an exhausted bald bag lady. I got slack because I was exhausted. It became just too hard to resist the river of easier meat based foods and gradually I returned to my old diet although not nearly so heavy nor did it include alcohol except  in the few weeks before my conversion.

It was on the Ian Gawler Retreat that I was converted. No angels no cherubim or seraphim no levitating nuns no statues weeping blood, just science, just good old empirical thinking and evidence based studies.

For the five days I was there with 29 other people directly or indirectly affected by cancer we ate vegan food. It wasn’t great vegan I have to say although their staff were the loveliest of people probably on a tight budget. I’d have done it differently but so would all of us. It is extremely difficult to cater to palates used to salt and sugar, fats and oils and I am undoubtedly a gannet albeit a gourmet gannet. I love cooking and see it is intimately linked with art and religious sentiment; one can paint a plate with colour flavour and texture so exquisite it causes such an elevation of the senses it is a religious experience. However that has to stop.

Seeing food through this new lens has caused me to do more of what my father used to say as he scooped out his un-smashed avo topped with lemon a little salt and pepper for breakfast after his massive heart attack in 1969 when my sister found dad in the surgery unconscious in his chair.

“Eat to live don’t live to eat.”

My mum was a trail blazer nutritionally back then. She put dad on Vitamin E to Z, minerals, muesli and avocados instead of eggs and bacon, she  discovered Brewers Yeast and wheatgerm and she changed everything about her approach to feeding us in order to keep the love of her life (our old dad) alive. She also, and this was my later downfall, discovered Cordon Bleu cookery.

I so clearly remember that first numinous moment of watching her bringing a baked strawberry cheesecake to the dinner table so pleased with herself as we watched agog. It was extraordinarily delicious, the perfect cheesecake and later we tasted other creations mum made from the monthly editions of Cordon Bleu cookbooks by Muriel Downes and Rosemary Hume…decidedly unfroggy names. Apricot stuffed rack of lamb with an orange crust, sauce soubise, ginger souffle, BBQd leg of lamb, Austrian Coffee Cake, Chilli Con Carne, Beef Wellington, Syllabub,Cucumber Mousse, so so many others but the one that has stuck in my family’s tradition for special occasions, Hazelnut and Raspberry Torte. This simple but utterly moreish dessert improves on the second day if it lasts that long.

  • 6-8 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • ¼ cup plain flour (although I often leave it out if I want a crispier torte)
  • 1 cup hazelnut meal
  • a pinch of salt
  • whipped cream
  • raspberries….lots and frozen is ok but fresh is best

Toast the hazelnut meal carefully as it will suddenly and quickly burn around the edges so you have to keep mixing it up with a fork, pushing the edges in. Cool them.

Whip the eggwhites till stiff then gradually incorporate the sugar beating until really thick and glossy. Fold in the sifted flours and the cool hazelnuts and pour into two baking paper lined tins and cook in a slow oven for about 35 mins but until it shrinks away from the tin and looks dry and crisp.

When they are cold sandwich them with raspberries and cream also topping them with the same and finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

NOW for the vegan version…

(to be continued…)

But as I have begun growing my own herbs and salads veggies and so on, I have discovered a new world of flavours healthier and tastier. Also the need for butter on my toast has been replaced by good quality golden flaxseed oil when I can get it and although it is really expensive I don’t slather it on like more is better as with butter.

Most things that I used to eat a lot of can still be enjoyed, I always loved veggies and fruit and nothing changed there, and most of the old ways can be substituted by new and healthier ones but the main thing is, I don’t sweat it, so if one day I feel like a bit of butter on my spelt and whole grain toast and a little homemade raspberry jam, I will. But life is sweet too and guilt and stress only make miserable dining companions.

I noticed the effects of different foods on my belly as I eliminated swathes of food groups. My body hates dairy, it doesn’t like most wheat products and alcohol makes me feel ill now so I rarely have it. Once I had a half glass of pinot noir in a pub and the hideous reaction, flushing and burning of my face lasted hours and hours along with a headache-not worth it!

I can’t abandon salt though. Some food needs it and my tongue does but I have cut it down to probably a quarter of what it was and I don’t add sugar to anything anymore although I am aware that there are sugars in various fruits and veg but I reckon that’s okay so long as I don’t overdo it.

Today I made a great discovery. I have been a purist with coffee. IF I drank it and for a long time I didn’t, I had a little craving now and then but could only have it with cows milk and one sugar but it always made me squeamy in the guts. Today I sallied forth with the hot Bonsoy and a tspn of maple syrup. IT WAS DELICIOUS! I preferred it to the old way. Huzz-bloody-zahhh!raspberry-hazelnut-meringue-torte-76862-1

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

The White Mandevilla

On the road

a rose bush grows

with blooms big as a babies’ head

it invades the air

with imperial ease.

Rocking on the Phu Quoc river

blue fishing boats.

In the pink massage parlour

 

the girl with rough hands hates the fat white women

who pay too much and speak too slow

she washes her sore hands

with Lifebuoy soap and pulls

the white hair of her clients just a bit too hard.

In Cua Duong the verdancy is cut

through by a concrete road

bisecting villas from houses

forest from garden.

Walking there

I pin a flower on my breast

fragrant and heady

the scent of soft fecund air

the dark vanilla Madagascan kiss

the tiny green waft of rice paddies

in peace behind the black gates of the villa

where the Mandevillas come out

white on green

like stars.

 

17/03/17

Saigon

 

 

Anglesea

Anglesea

For Victor

 

Too late to the beach with the scalding eye

glaring down from its zenith

searing the soles of feet below

we found a fringe of rocks and trees

and under this deep silent shadow

we sat on towels, ate bruised fruit,

our softened baguettes

drank the warming beer

till the glint on a rock called me over.

 

A plaque set there to someone’s daughter

killed on the beach, falling from her horse, Tilly,

‘doing what she loved best’

a little can set below with two sore and dessicated roses

the tiny ritual enough to set my heart’s clock ticking

I know this sound.

 

To have then not to have

to receive then to give away

to love deeply but hold lightly

to accept this loss as a kind of gift

for others on such a day in such a place

where children cavort and chortle,

teenagers sulk on towels metres from their mothers

where beautiful bodies smell of coconut and sex

where strangers fill your vase with coastal grass or blooms

under the deep shade of ti-trees

sheltering those for whom the light is way too strong.

 

Catherine Forsayeth

Phu Quoc 16/03/2017

 

SKIN

omeganebula

One o’clock

I was fair once my lovelies.

Skin supple

wind murmured through my hair

shifting like the sighs of suckled babes

over my countenance

I breathed in the light of stars and galaxies

poured my grace into waterfalls

nuanced the mist that rose and wreathed with love

those who loved me then and were still to come.

 

Two o’clock

I embraced, starlight paled my skin,

life pulsed through the alveoli of trees

coursed in rivers bays and coves winkled with shells

teeming brimming boiling with fish weaving through greetings of weed

I lifted my arms to the arcane vault of the sky

my fingers fringed the horizon

teasing out moisture that misted my grateful mouth

I drank deeply at the pools glittering near my feet.

 

Three o’clock

In the profound dark of night swinging with thuribles of stars

spilling the light of aeons upon the tawny frogmouth

the wee green treefrog clinging to his pale branch

the ghostly curlicues of mist rising from the lake

trembling with a descant ring of joy intensely thrilling,

haloed in a wreath of light,

I called for union with my beloved

and oh it was here with me that the sons and daughters of heaven

sang the song that laid the cornerstone of life

 

Four o’clock

Casting thought in a vast arc

incandescent, swinging  high then low

two lights appeared; first sun to mark the day

then moon to mark the night

but more than this the lesser lights

the jokey glowworm happy with his bright bum

its cousin flitting firefly, the clattering click beetle,

and deeply in dark and cold waters

the crazy angler fish lit his reading lamp way

phosphorescent  drifts in oceans

luminescent squid trail like a mermaids hair

 

Five o’clock

Oh I was fair beloved!

My friends all, great and small teemed and gamboled

played artless games breathless with laughter

all enfolded in coruscating specks of light shivering in their time

in their ecstasy

so that all life knew

I was fair, so fair, beloved.

 

Six o’clock

On the promontory, with its hard basalt nose sticking out

I called them forth from the shimmering motes,

male and female they were, dove shy, still soft.

The rocks ground their teeth

rumbling subterranean cracks faulted in the mantle

like wayward children put to bed the bedcovers  of hills were ruched in folds

as all the earth moved and complained,

but I loved these two the best

I kissed them on the mouth and fed my words into them

I sang my love into their breasts

their swelling bodies rocked tumescent

and climaxed into knowing the we of I.

 

Seven o’clock

I saw him mark a rock with shapes and lines

to draw the hunt wherein the great beast was felled that day,

it spilled its blood upon the land fecund, verdant.

I saw woman shamed and into silence go

Hungering for a pelt to cover her lovely form.

Where then the fruit for you, the grain for you, the roots and tubers

vines flowers, the honey sweet for you?

I knelt and put that great head on my lap

swept aside the flies that crawled upon the darkened orbs,

the eyes that saw the pointed spears thrown

the cry so quickly choked by gushing blood

her knees collapsed and the earth received

the fall.

 

Eight o’clock

They work and build, they teem across the plains.

Numbers formulae plotting the course of stars

They sail, pirates in a caravelle

The great astrolabe of intelligence subjugates all matters

Mountains scaled rivers coursed and oceans crossed

Over everything they dominate and thrive

These children more like bees than hive

I stand and watch their monuments rise

A ziggurat a pyramid a tower marble statues to golden gods

I’m making lists as fast as I can go

Of these, my children’s tickets to eternity, posterity or glory-o.

 

Nine o’clock

Someone knocks; a hollow echo booms within, not knowing…

a sigh a cry a shout from without , I stay inside

curl in nimbus and cirrus, in the heat the wings of hummingbirds fan me,

it is getting late, still the din grows louder strident

clamouring, the sounds of hammers, the crackle and roar of fire

wailing of babies and groans of old men from outside my door

I go out.

 

Ten o’clock

From my hill I see them spread below, a multitude incalculable,

black brown yellow white pink, all these babies

reaching blind to things they can never see

I swallow them in to my eyes

peer into them with my mouth

and feel them with my heart,

they are one but legion mired in the diurnal round of fleshly cycles

they heave and struggle, take steel to finish off what gold didn’t take first

from the top of my hill I call out

“Don’t do to someone else what you don’t want done to you!”

I feed them but

like cells the crowd divides,

meiosis untrammeled and a mad malignancy is born.

 

Eleven o’clock

I’m woken by an immense light for seconds brighter than my soul

The stones cry out,

trees scream in the horror of being ripped from the womb of earth

The juddering teeth of rocks grinds and will not stop

cooked fish flood the land the animals birds flowers

the wee green tree frog

the tawny frogmouth

the doe eyed creatures great and small

The cricket in his dark hole playing his legs

The bison slaughtered in a sticky sickening sea

The hacked and cracked slapped crushed macerated chunks of my children

The ice plains crack, the glaciers slide, they melt, they steam,

the turning of all

From all it was into all it is

The great rape has begun .

 

 Three minutes to twelve

What to do what to do what to do what to do

I have sent my best, my lions, my horsemen,

the great beast with eyes multifocal

I waved away the great prostitute with my bloodied loin cloth

I walked on the marches

Suffered in the prisons

When you were lashed, spat on and hung, I too,

When the incandescent bombs were strapped on making a red smear

Of you , I was incandescent too.

I have whispered in the dreams of men

Turned them unholy cowards in their sweaty beds

I have trumpeted warnings in your news

As the floods came

As the storms turned their eyes

upon babies whimpering under beds

And giant hands dragged them into towns collapsing in wave after wave

Sweeping them up trees turning them in wire prisons

Rolling them in the depths like crocodile snacks

You shake and wonder murmur what next what now what will happen

I tell you

I tell you

I tell you this

Half from one

Two from four

Four from eight

In an exponential chain

It will not abate

It will not stop

until my face is fair again.

 

22/02/2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Europe: gestalt

Europe: gestalt

 

To the north in the Fundão are the true minds of Portugal,

the ones who live without the stink of cabbage drains and catacombs

of the cattle crush on all the blaring roads

of hyphenated walks on cobblestones

of sardines in stilettos climbing stairs floor after floor

to arrive in a closet called home out of the reach of soil and leaf.

 

Europe on its kapok bed

Europe the bitch with the open legs

 

Breathing in (as if its forever)

breathing out (all the earth gasps)

always the sulphur steaming from the pores of her poxy face.

 

Europe pimpled with churches

Europe lifting her skirts

 

Now the interred are gone to dust

their blood and bone mingle in the fields

and raft the rivers.

their ashes are the rain on verdant Polish ground.

All the land is fecund, all the fruit is sweet

basted by temperate summers,

the taste is deep with age

and this taste is always on the tongue

or fluttering fragrant kisses on the brows of children

whose faces are the profiles on old coins

turning up on beaches in the New World

it hovers on the brows of mothers

rutted with weeping

hard with desire.

 

There is no beauty here,

here there is simply an anger

such as that which takes a sickle to a throat

or bonfires books and people in the streets

or dives into the lakes of wine

or drifts in curlicues of hash and grass

(another continental analgesic)

or cracks the skulls of old men.

 

the old men are selling their fruit

and the fruit falls far from the trees

and the trees poke fingers down down down deep in the soil

and the soil is in the blood and the blood is in the fields of history

and the history floats on the turgid waters of the falling

and the fallen were the young men with the seed

and the seed was the people in the streets

or the ones shot in the forests of Verdun

or Katyn

or  fucked to death in Mostar

or hung in prisons or on gibbets

in this or that village on this or that day for something… for something

for something

that wrinkles the yellowing pages

and clearly states:

Eye for Eye and Slash for Slash.

 

We are all leveled by it;

by the blood,

by the smell of it

brought down by the gas

broken in the bone

blind in one eye

split  by dissent and opinion

reduced to a comma

ticked in the box

reduced to a dot

we are molecules and neutrons

we are the fine wine of a shitty god pissed out on a land

that is never really ours

 

but it is theirs and we must have it

we must have the fields of rock

with the skin of dust white brown and black

that now blows over the face of her

in the hair of her

in the eyes and ears of her

in the bronchi of all the returning children

who ever breathed in the reek of the drains of Europe.

 

Europe picking at hospital sheets

Europe shooting up under a bridge

 

There are remnants here in Portugal;

two witnesses in the last olive grove

two trees of men who cannot bear fruit

one has a madness and bites his hands late into the night

the other curls, a trembling mote, on his bed

waiting for a halt in hostilities.

 

Europe winks: a  promise of pleasure

Europe: the  eye with a black meniscus.

 

Portugal 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ordinary Things

Ordinary Things

 

Some ordinary things are a salve,

solace to a saddened soul

as celestial footlights over baking northern lands

thoughts lightning strike in flashes

the wind turns on a spindle whirling a prayer wheel to the cool south

a murmuration of thoughts roll and coruscate in a bleak wintry sky.

Oh how I loved you then,

you dived into the cold Atlantic then up

raining salty droplets off your hair, grinning, triumphant

ecstatic after your cold showers

standing straight as an Egyptian in your towel

your fingers the colour of papyrus but no matter.

The first day together on the cliffs of Ericeira

Facing the rosy fall of the sun over the real Finistere,

the holy fragrance of shrubs seeping myrrh into our air.

No-one’s simple beauty shone through as yours

there on that quiet edge of the continent

you took my heart off the plunging steep

slipped it warm into your pocket where it stayed, domesticated.

 

You, a navigator too, sailed cold oceans,

through squalls, tempests doldrums Into new lands

you plundered my treasures with a careless hand

sailed to other harbours, to the winking tavern lights

some wild tarantella swept you into mad whirling prancing dancing

in steps learned from another girl, then another girl,

another another another

spinning nebulae of lies

skeins of deceit

till from your pocket

my small heart slipped to the floor

under clattering feet and clicking heels

and with a sad slow susurration

stopped beating.

 

I never knew love until that day

I never knew life until that day,

I, to scoop up that still soft piece

and put it back where it homed and grew big,

in me.

Catherine Forsayeth 16/02/17