Picture by Brian Fraser
Pâté de Foie Gras
I'm trying to distract her, my younger self,
the daughter eating a slice, her body
shivering. She thinks all that's wrong
is that the meal isn't hot,
but as she swallows, waves
chill her gut. She feels
as if a steel pipe
has been shoved down her throat
and a flood of grain pumped in.
She'll store them for later – these sensations –
she's my duckling preparing
for the great migration, her liver
gorged to ten times its weight
so she can survive the flight.
Father's wiping his chin now
and when she asks why Christmas lunch is cold
he says it's pâté de foie gras de canard,
part-cooked, a whole lobe.
That raw day
she sends her stronger self
up, as she did when she was a child,
to float just below the ceiling
and keep watch. I'm that guardian.
I've seen the duck farms of the Périgord,
that each memory has a cage –
so many of them – some with broken beaks,
torn throats, maggots in neck wounds,
one with her tongue lolling from her mouth,
all of them panting in their tiny coops
below the funnels,
their heads that back off when the man
clamps his hand over their eyes
and stuffs the gavage in.
Thanks to Seren Books for the permission to publish this poem. Pascale Petit's eighth collection, Tiger Girl, published by Bloodaxe in 2020, won an RSL Literature Matters Award while in progress. Her seventh collection Mama Amazonica, published by Bloodaxe in 2017, won the Royal Society of Literature’s 2018 Ondaatje Prize. Four of Pascale’s earlier collections were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2018 she was appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.