Pascale Petit: a poem


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.