Now husband and wife,
the broken coin exchanged,
a half for each.
Floral crown on the mantelpiece
a dark little stain on the sheets.
Dressed up and married,
she waits for him to lead.
He eyes the long landscape,
she touches the froth on the trees.
Mist lifts slowly off the lake.
Black swans drift past
but he doesn’t step forward.
He laughs and shrugs and
lifts his head.
She tenses, ready to follow.
On the rough wooden table
the salad of herbs arranged like flowers
blue borage simmering with bees
the fat, hairy border of comfrey.
Chanting from the village.
Two figures come close then leave.
A light rain falls and she
It is time to put on
their everyday clothes.
All they have done is nothing.
Nothing is left in their shadow
turned upside down
She won’t meet his eye.
He can’t meet hers.
Some black swans cry
The quick path home.
The reek of pennyroyal
They fall, bewildered, into bed.
On the wooden table the spray of herbs
weighted by dew
releases its various scents.
All summer she makes this recipe.
Pricks both ends of an egg with a pin
then blows softly through
to empty the yolk, the white.
Flushes the shell under a tap.
Warm water enters and exits the tiny holes.
She mixes milk of almonds with sugar
colours half the mix with saffron
and with the finest funnel
then yellow then white
into the shell to make as if an egg
(its yolk a yellow girdle)
and heats it over the fire to set.
To begin with he delighted
in the sweet trick
then started to long for an egg,
the real thing, instead.
He stops at the kitchen door
sees her, her lovely mouth
pressed to the crown of an egg,
transparent white streaked with yellow
oozing from its end.
Growing out of the compost
a tumble of tomatoes
and beside them,
four grey-skinned pumpkin
between pale sun and compost they are warm.
He picks the pumpkin one by one
and tomatoes in a viney bunch,
a bridal spray.
He makes five journeys to the kitchen
where he wipes them with a clean cloth
and sets them along the bench,
She makes pumpkin and tomato soup
and a hare’s head out of bread
they use one ear each to dip in their soup
scooping it hungrily.
The meal is good.
‘A present from the compost,’ he says
and they smile as she tears
the earless hare’s head in two.
She brushes snow from the path
her blue skirt, its damp hems
gritty against her ankles.
Her ankles, shins and feet throb with cold.
She drops the brush
leaving the path half-cleared
half-lumpy with snow.
Inside she drops her skirt to the floor
steps into the warm, rough stuff
of her husband’s trousers
ties them against her legs with leather straps.
Her husband watches her disappear.
She fossicks at the base of trees
kicks through red and orange leaves
runs down a gentle slope to a stream,
follows its silver thread.
That night he makes a pudding dense with raisins
bristling with thinly-sliced almonds,
a fat hedgehog,
they eat it sitting in chairs beside the window.
Later in bed she straddles him
her face towards his feet.
‘I am a Fool’ she says
‘And that makes me an Ass,’ he smiles
‘No, no,’ she says, ‘I am the Ass’
and gently he pulls her under him.
‘There is no way to do this well,’ he says
‘let’s do it badly.’