Three Odes, Three Dishes

Ode to Pho


Among the market stalls

You lunged towards me

Like an octopus in the deep dark,

Among the market stalls,

A universe of complexity

Yet still a singularity;

From this bowl,

It all bangs outwards.


Foaming like the sea,

A primordial broth,

Made by hands that

In your caress

Have forgotten the napalm burns,

And eaten by those unfathomable,

Unknowable, unseen,

Comrades of that red ocean;

They mean us no harm,

They mean us Pho.


History here is a dark bullet

Shot from the deltas,

Travelling side by side

With time’s arrow

Past struggles that stem

And stem like the alien hands

Of the delta itself.

Kings, dynasties and regimes

Like anchovies in the tin of time,

Have tried to lay anchor;

But malarial violence swept them along




But never could that swell

Ever change the habits,

The truths

Of the Pho eaters.




Ode to Callos


Madrid, as the fascist winters bloomed,

Your innards grew fortified.

The guts you cooked were your own;

Seasoned with the Sol and garnished by the Prado.

Those tendrils of intimate labyrinths

Boiled patiently as you awaited,


The day when you can proudly stand beneath

The flag of your long-martyred country.


No poet can sing away the toil,

But let your callos of oppression be

The Renaissance of your fragmented freedom;

Eat as you sing, sing as you eat, and liberty is what you eat.


The stubble of the tripe,

That unicorn’s foot somewhere in the stew,

Like a brotherly Civil War, no,

Fought over the hand of the gingerly morcilla,

Ay Carmela sung in the papyrus

Of the clear liquid as it bubbles;

The yields of the Spanish earth jostle

Sacrificing themselves like Aztec warriors,

Tearing out all their insides,

Bleeding, palpitating,

Praying for a new sun to rise,

Praying on immaculate rosary beads

That when the fire was silenced

A new day would dawn

And luxurious hunger alone would reign.


Ode to Widow’s Soup


Like an Egyptian hieroglyph

This Maltese soup’s mystery.


Smelling of death;

It writes its own odes

To the departed,

A Book of the Dead


By a neighbourly hand.

There is no greater loss

To be known anywhere

Than the pain of

A Maltese woman losing

Her husband.

It can make mountains weep

And dictators weak.

The bat’s wings of limestone

That ennoble the noble dead

In the cathedrals

Can never hope to alleviate

Their grief and promote it

To something prematurely heavenly.

Only the soup,

Borne from its kitchen of kindness,


With a neighbour’s pantry

Now bereft

Can soothe the widow’s heart

In a way no godliness could.


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