by Anthony Lawrence Leonard CohenAt a Jewish food stall, considering knaidlach, shakshuka and falafel, Leonard Cohen took my order. His apron was dusted with fingerprints. His name badge flashed in the sun as he moved along tables, describing ingredients. When I asked about the origins of cochin coriander-and-cumin chicken, he spoke of spices and the shipwreck that saw his descendants settle in Mumbai, in 175 BCE. He talked of eating fragrant strings of goat meat in the light of Sabbath oil lamps. I bought carrot halva and a bagful of bagels and he wished me well, suggesting I return to try his masala lamb stew –A tonic for the heart and soul, he said, with loving attention to the weight and sound of each syllable. Inheritance
Begin with a cast-iron pan, handed down
from a long line of kitchen magicians
on your father’s side, men and womenwho understood the word season
and its implications
for the way metal cultivates a sheenlike tannin from traces of earth
released over heat and time, yet now
it appears more expansive in styleand form, its handle like a stem of shadow
coaxed from a Dryden couplet
so prepare a mealby shaving mangrove tapers
into the swim-bladder of a fish
whose name means atolland leave it to simmer in the brine
it was lifted from, along with the liquid
from peppers so redyou had bundled the rest
like pliable ampules of blood
tied with string dyed green from a nettlingand after the eyes of the fish go to cloud
and the gills close the way
bivalves rock shut when they’re sickshuffle the pan
until flame pours over the sides
then add slivers of kelpwith a flourish you learned
from watching your father in smoke and steam
and before serving what the sea and landhave conspired to make visceral, say a few words
in praise of the shoreline and reef
something that speaks to howwading birds read the margins of the tide
then sit down with your loving
attention to detail, and rejoice. Cleaning Trout
Spangled drongos were leaving the trees in theatrical collapse.
I’d cleaned a table of trout, my hands lit with scales.Attempting the call of a bird with a long forked tail
I disturbed a Labrador, a breed whose bark I can tellfrom collie, kelpie, mongrel. Then a man chimed in
with the kind of abuse I’d heard when playing rugby, lyingunder a maul. A dog yelped. A man signed off on his vitriol
by slamming a door. Twice. Too late to considerhow fishing kills what I love in communal or pelagic form
I put the fish on ice and threw their gills to the gulls.With a feeling like I’d lost or forgotten something
I drove home. As Down is to SnowWe wake holding hands.
It is early, yet too late
to return to sleep.I had surfaced to lines
by Robert Frost – one
where a horse stopsto shake the bells
of its harness, and one
that tells of howpromises are to keep
as down is to snow.
You had woken toa detail in a painting
by Richard Diebenkorn
in which the oceanmeets the land head-on.
If anything had been
uncertain or withheldduring the night, it has gone
as a tram breaks
over the sound of rain.
ArtisanA box of old-style drill bits and plane blades
like a pain monger’s inventory.
A brass plumb machined by hand
in a stutter of lamplight, when Shakespeare
was sipping a wreath of smoke from a pipe
with a starling skull for a bowl.
And as for the theory
that if your old man could make a cabinet
from celery pine, the grains aligned
to give the impression of pale flames
and despite having never shown interest
in working with timber, you can still
craft a bookshelf with dovetailed joins
from offcuts and driftwood…
just saying the word carpentry
is enough to give me shingles.
So when I see, on the cover
of Hand-Made Homes, that someone
has raised the canopy of a rainforest
as a sky pavilion, or I take a virtual tour
of a cliff-top eyrie with a lift
from cinema to helipad through a shaft
in the limestone, I give thanks
for my two thumbs, a desk, lamp
and chair in a room someone else has made
so I can make this. About the Author:Anthony Lawrence has published fifteen books of poems. His most recent collection, ‘Headwaters’
won the 2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry. He teaches Creative Writing at Griffith University, Queensland.