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Agnes Marton: a poem

Image by Veronique Brosset


Someone was at the door. A peafowl.

A hen. I didn't know her,

but let her in. Her green and gold plumage

hung down; her black wings were losing 

their sheen of blue. 

I wrapped her coppery neck in a shawl,

a keepsake from my childhood.

I'd often cuddled this piece of cloth. 

It's worn. You touch it? You touch the air.

They were on me, in me. I recalled

angel's feathers, a devil's voice. 

The myth. I wondered why me to confide in.

She could be anybody, in my shawl, covered in hair.

I grew up with a jaguarundi,

a friend of scrub and swamp.

She used to push her weasel-like face

under my armpit. I, with my fingers,

combed the grass out of her sleek, unmarked

coat. She took to raiding pheasants,

to feasting on their fleshy caruncles: wattles,

dewlaps, snoods and earlobes,

loud and flamboyant.

I told her where the traps were.

We sheltered from coywolves,

clutched each other as if we were next of kin.

But she was carried off. I kept

some of her fallen hair, my hands

moist with betrayal, although it wasn't my fault.

Shame on me, I wished I had had her whiskers;

prettier tokens of her trust.

Does she know, the hen? Is she aware

I mooched with poachers?

She pats my elbow: Are you listening? 

A photo sails out of her conical beak. 

Look at this. My Denis.

A bird in a wooden trencher,

in the middle of which is fixed a skewer,

penetrating the body, to keep it upright.

Enveloped in buttered foil, 

garnished with violets and lemon.

The claws and feathers spread

in a natural manner, the tail

like a fan, supported with wire.

The hen whispers. Darling,

instead of plucking him,

they took off his skin delicately

so that the feathers did not get broken.

He was stuffed with truffles, bacon,

crumbs of bread, thyme, and a bay-leaf.

At the table, 

a rakish man like my late husband.

Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet, writer, librettist, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK) and Reviews Editor at The Ofi Press. Recent publications include her collection Captain Fly's Bucket List and four chapbooks with Moria Books (USA). She won the National Poetry Day Competition in the UK.

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