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The Roadkill Cookbook

by Daniel Bennett


The Roadkill Cookbook by

Daniel Bennett

Š Daniel Bennett 2017 All Rights Reserved Page | 1


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Contents The Roadkill Cookbook ................................................................................... 5 Dream Palette.................................................................................................. 6 Plums ............................................................................................................... 7 The Sage .......................................................................................................... 8 Leisure Centre ................................................................................................. 9 Motes ............................................................................................................. 10 Barmen ........................................................................................................... 11 Harry's Bar ..................................................................................................... 12 Spaces/ Blocks................................................................................................ 13 Waking from Sleep, Trieste............................................................................14 Lido (Trieste).................................................................................................. 15 Vienna ............................................................................................................16 Colorado ......................................................................................................... 17 The Gifts ........................................................................................................ 18 A Lost Knife ....................................................................................................19 Hastings......................................................................................................... 20 Sappho On The Hill ........................................................................................21 Clair de Lune ................................................................................................. 22 Spring Fires ................................................................................................... 23 A Late Guest to the Red Hotel ...................................................................... 24

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The Roadkill Cookbook A walk through the village would be an early freedom, my footsteps into the world. A crossroads set the limits or the pylons striding over from a sandstone bridge, the railway miles unspooling from the cancelled station, my grandfather owned a photo of the final train. I found the pheasant slain by a car, torn up in an instant, left behind. My father hung these birds in our shed, for the cheap delicacy of aged game, their necks cricked glaringly, and feathers edged with gold. I'd discovered a taste for the meat, that intriguing tang of leather and rot, my tongue teasing out shot from the ripe grain. I spat the pellets out like pips. A crimson head lay sliced from the body, an arterial arc, oatmeal thick. I crossed the red horror of it, ran fast into my mother's arms to hear her say, oh my son, welcome to limit of the world. Today you have survived it.

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Dream Palette Here is a narrow road, whale blue under rain tarmac stitching out farmland and villages, revealing all I will know yet of the world. An outhouse shaped from green asbestos, yellow fields curving into wild brambles, their thorns beaded with deadly nightshade, the red bulbs almost luminous. My mother stands beside me, and speaks a word I cannot hear. Her coat is burgundy like the leather of my shoes. Rain pops on my hood as I step across a drain of gunmetal iron. Coins lie under the grate, and when I reach out for them, they buckle under my fingertips cold as butter sliding in gold foil.

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Plums Walk on the school run, a new road, a sullen tributary. The plum tree sprouts beside a bridge of green iron and my daughter will always swing from its low branches or burst the fallen fruit, gleeful as the yellow pulp squirts beneath her heels. An Indian woman stood in the shadow of the bridge her sari pulled out in front picking plums from the ground, the way my grandmother would hold her pinafore, returning from her garden with windfall apples and peas. No one remarked on it. Children pour through life like quicksilver, rain, they run across the wet schoolyard into new shoes and experiences. On the way back, I stopped and plucked one of the plums spat on blue skin, wiped it down, preparing myself for the taste. I am always prepared for the taste.

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The Sage The sound of work usually brought him out, although not the frantic scribbles I attempted in the evening. I mean anything with tools. The time I took a claw hammer to the decaying shed, tired of the way it tipped over the garden like a drunk. Or the shelves I cut out of blonde pine for either side of the chimney, practicing with architrave and dowelling a few months before I gathered up books and papers and fled that house. What work could have been more pointless to his eyes? He would appear at the fence, stooped behind the slats and even then I could see the spasms chattering through his frame. Parkinson's. As a disease, it sounds too genial, as though he were expected to greet the condition with a handshake and smile, talk happily at the way it had destroyed his life. Soon, I would go around to his workshop. We all did: the homebuilders and fixers and makers do. Drawn from the street, these imperfect practitioners of his art would congregate for advice on hidden joints and underpinning, the use of talcum powder under new boards the merits of ash or rosewood, the hard grain of beech. Most times, his retreat became a sanctuary from my desk where everything went wrong. Yes, he had it worse but, sometimes, to watch him concentrate his body's tremors - when he would pluck a drill bit from the bench, or work a lathe I had to wonder about the joke life had played on us both. To exhaust ourselves fiddling, always, against the grain. To spend our lives, struggling to piece all the remnants together. Page | 8


Leisure Centre These activities aren't hard to master it only matters that they are performed with a lightness of touch. Seriousness puts a weight on the heart adds grams to the medicine ball a furrow in the brow. All of this is contrary to our aims. We would ask that you imagine yourself as a balloon: weightless and aloof, straining to beat the pull of gravity. All around you the swimmers, pinched in their lanes and runners chasing roads which never end are concentrated on their own intent. Effort is the intensity of grace, and art is what we make of ourselves. The world flickers on liquid screens, but only the burn is real.

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Motes This morning's blade of liquid light finds us drowsy, somewhat awed at these softly drifting exchanges through what we think of as the world. The dead skin (which is our skin), pollen, lazy filaments of cloth, cardboard, lint and the dust we shake each evening from our clothes, as though we're hiding minor evidence of some insanely patient escape: the fine brick, plaster and cement eroding from the paths we circulate out together, after work, these fun nights. Call me up, take me anywhere, I'll agree. Perhaps through this sleepy meditation we can see how this light reveals that we, too, have never been fixed in this city, have always taken flight rootless, boundless in what we want. Last night, I packed up my room again.

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Barmen Where do they go? These shamen of the night job, showmen on a wage. I have loved them for their bellowed greetings in the dingiest cellar, the blue flames leaked from goblets the shake of frosted glass and alchemy in a mint sprig rare bitters, marc de champagne. And if they have acted as demons of our profligacy part of me will mourn the day they curse the screwed up body clock the out of kilter life and vow to disappear into the daily thwart of a nine to five, considering this a better fate than a dream beyond its time: to hit fifty, paunched and ponytailed necking prairie oysters in some Ibizan beach bar done out in fake bamboo, mulling over the daily beer order a waitress's sugar skull tattoo.

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Harry's Bar Your round. In this backstreet den Cole Porter and Hemingway argue over martinis long into forever. Hello Paris. Nowhere savours its peak quite so gloriously. A rare brandy with a plum sealed in glass, a sunrise oozing through lemon hills a midnight cigarette, a drink spilling over into something, well, permanent: these highs vanish without immortal glory but who lives for eternity? I'll leave Papa with his Gibson forget the ghosts. What matters is the smile you offer, the pine green of a scarf that matches your eyes, the way you dab at your Aviator as though testing an electric current. The night is waiting. A jug band plays 'St. James Infirmary', in boaters, braces, the works all the way to the Metro. Some silly boy is always waving at a passing train.

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Spaces/ Blocks How many stories have been framed by Fifth Avenue, and the snow blowing in over the river who might count it? The wind sends the rats in flight down Washington Square, during our walk across these blocks and spaces, this brilliant excess of scale. Old loves wave from Brooklyn bars, the dead press themselves onto the windows of a corner hotel: it's another place drenched with the past but large enough to accept us. The sadness you might feel at the cleansing of skuzzball Times Square makes you wonder if there's a word to describe mourning only the grimy things that have passed. Saubad? At Father Duffy Square, a surly bus driver defeats an old woman's politeness but it's easy to lose yourself in the fact of place and let the dead talk in concrete and stone. A man calls for help for the poor, asking 'Where is the love, people where is the love?' It's still here, my friend, and only a little worse for wear.

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Waking from Sleep, Trieste The white wine of a summer lunch pale as a split pear The piazzas of the city leave us drowsy We dozed on cool linen in the attic room My daughter calls this city Trisstess The captain knocked on the door, offering his sword Plane trees thrive along the avenue Quarters of peach are placed in a china bowl Slow news The sad white cube at Miramare glows under sunlight on the distant shore conceived by a spoiled man in the high grip of love who would not imagine the heat of white adobe at his back when they shot him through the heart It's very sad. In the photograph, you're still alive July 2015

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Lido (Trieste) This cornflower blue hallucinates the sea which is the colour of dank moss where it clings to the low stones and in other parts is as purple as slate. Deco pavilions might have been built for decay: the curved roofs, pillars, portholes require the persistent seediness to make them cohere, as though, all along, the architects conceived of blistered paintwork, graffiti and the air of piss and mild resentment on the drawing board prints. Ruin is as inevitable as the tide, a drunk sailor putting out from port heading towards a storm in a leaky hulk prepared to slip happily under the waves

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Vienna It's the listless feeling of late age: black coffee and patience in the square a waltz programmed to play at the opening of the cafe door, or the old lovers who wrote to each other over the course of one winter finding a way to chuckle over all that pain while the skies hung with chains of snow. It's as though we've decided to occupy a museum but are frightened to display anything but gratitude as we dust the armour, sneak cat naps off the marble stairs, bow to statues and avoiding the tantrums of the emperor, who has been indulged by servants for too long as he drifts through history with no sense of reality or shame. Meanwhile, Harry Lime survives down in the sewers laughing at how people thought all of that was done. We spied a cruel face in the Naschtmarkt. This gin has been watered down.

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Colorado Streets where nothing happens under a low ash sky or where violence might burst, resonate, define a place. We can grab a car and drive for hours across the sooted plains, watch a storm descend into the next county, a distant city, a perfect mountain. One night, we hiked to the summit ate sausage doused with dark beer over a campfire, convinced ourselves of the mysteries of settler lore and when I awoke alone and stepped down the pathway I considered myself wise as Zarathustra for having spent the night beyond the signs for hamburgers and haberdashers, the promises of breakfast and parking lots. Oh these places. Oh to have memory fixed. On the road into town I worried moose in blue green pastures while cars slid by, fleeting as salmon under bright winter sun.

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The Gifts The stones offered to pockets along the autumn walk inside the birch forest no mostly pines with a copse of birches, we ran through mud and discovered the hides of the last of the bird watchers this den of patient categorisation the old thermos, picked over for its puzzle of broken glass. Or the sweets hidden inside pots and jars or balanced teetering on the frames of old family photographs all those funny people with their hair and eyelids and hardly excusable manners the guardians of the gifts reached out for with clues written on scraps from the day journal their abstract codes provide tasty reward as we follow their step by step elucidation of well, the world. Here it is, waiting for us on the screen. None of it looks as we expected.

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A Lost Knife Slim tool, keen companion you came to me on a hillside walk, plunder from a stone dream, hiker's boon. Like Paley's watch you were evidence of another hand although I would ignore the design. Cousin to the jack knives I took as toys, the survival compadres in the soaked meadows of childhood. Thin nibs slicing runes into tree bark, one paring my fingertip open and layering skin, a white onion rinsed swiftly with blood. For years, I would celebrate the bottles you opened on beaches and hills the corks popped from necks of Rhone and Rioja the metal caps from black European beer. Sweet fruit cored and peeled, tins prised apart in fields. The hooks of nagging bramble chopped, hang nails and letters, a whittled birch twig. I would never prise a stone from a horse's hoof. I did not cut anyone with your blade, or divert a flight with your slender threat. All moments are borrowed. I would lose you too: another partner who vanished when I glanced away, never mine.

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Hastings Summer, or later. Pulled here by a gesture, an ideal. The tide captured us in its fist, the squeeze of group power. For a while I kept you at the edge of my sight. Remember those walks by the black shacks? Fishermen told us wild stories about the festival, the government. And Jenny Lind blessed us, her nightingale tones offering proof of the world. They're drained by connections, lately. Everything has washed up here, and left a memento of itself behind. The bars offer brass work and yellow Penguins, a tabloid flourish on the truth. A Green Man drinks placidly, watching tourist poses, the pier burning with an arsonist's kiss, a young couple, wondering when all this cohered into a life. Later, you can sit argue about what connects you to a country beyond habit, family, history, the day-to-day blurred into, oh, millennia. The stripe of tradition you can't wash out, although it blurs and bleeds, sticks fast against the contrast, like a grey sea, greased as old petroleum. Mainly summer, now I think of it. I'll never know why I keep coming back here.

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Sappho On The Hill These long summer shadows tick imperceptibly by. Freckled light beats through London planes, a horse and cart appears from some distant incongruity, while our white wine mixes sweetly with cubes of pomegranate something perfectly ancient. These red seeds always return you to days under Mediterranean light, the bright seas and white dust of childhood, the beaded fruit ripening in high trees. And we talk of Sappho, those papyrus scraps woven together over centuries, and the loss of countless lines, one of the world's prolonged sadnesses. You still find yourself marked by those days in that island house the long heat withering vines, family and friends caught up in war, far-flung, vanished. Slowly turning jets linger on the periphery of sight, and for a second mimic the antic flicker of swifts, but that would be disastrous and we'll have none of that. Not now. Not with such a day. Things last. Thrive. Even in pieces. Let's stay here, for a while yet.

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Clair de Lune You talk about those night drives through the Cyprus wilds, moonlight on scrub, olive trees. A tan deep in your pores, whip skinny girl, after days diving for shells around Aphrodite's rocks heading back to the house where you would be marooned during wartime in Kuwait, history wiping its footprints on your childhood. Limes scattered over the highway, dogs howling from the bondhu. You watched the high moon beyond glass thinking about how places blur, lives and times. Now, we sit on a Dalmatian beach, the low moon reflecting futures, dreams a pillar of light, solid on the water, that bright past spilling over us.

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Spring Fires The smoke stays on you for days, finds ingress into fingerprints and pores, leaves its taint on the skin around your nails. Who lights a fire, anyway? In these days of central heating, and men with vans, who push flyers through our doors offering to carry away our mistakes. But as these nights open up, it's fine to indulge in some backyard atavism, to sip red wine and burn your way through the remains of another year: the garden chair given up to rot, the fence which collapsed in a storm, a length of birch collected as a walking stick from a Boxing Day jaunt. Bean canes a bird house, bills and letters, flyers from all those men with vans (they do build up). Thoughts move quickly with the teeming flames, the decisions made, and the ruins left behind, the warmth. Under dusk, as everything fades to smoke and the final charcoal crackles cherry red, a screw and nut remain behind in the ash, having a last laugh on a joint which offered permanence. Everything is fuel for the flames.

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A Late Guest to the Red Hotel I worked each weekend in the red hotel tramped across wheat fields towards its nowhere enclave beyond a gatehouse, a line of sycamores. A nothing job. My father had arranged it. I was sixteen and had dreams beyond those of a groundsman, scullion, though none were defined. One day, a man met me by the entrance, bearded and bald. He watched closely as I heaved rubbish from the kitchen the stains of bleach on my jeans, my gaze averted. I avoided guests, as one who collated what they left behind, and so offered a glimpse of the parade of strangers who had shared their beds the blood behind every meal. But this man followed me to the incinerator where we threw aerosols onto flames fed by confetti from yesterday's wedding and I told him about the old woman, who would never pay her bill, how she wandered the corridors in a dirty nightdress, asking for her son, about the cleaner who chatted to herself in a high pitched falsetto, the chef who drank barley wine by the case and glutted himself on satellite porn, the owner who loafed around the place but during the local hunt dressed in jodhpurs and riding coat, to ingratiate himself into the higher sect. The guest had opened his mouth to speak, but shook his head. After a while he walked back, to his room, I guess. His parting words: Get used to this. After work, I walked back home and from the verge beside the busy road I looked across the yellow wheat fields and imagined I saw the ocean swell. Page | 24


The poems in this short collection make their way through the cities and landscapes of Europe and America, while returning to the small towns and landscapes of the author's birth. Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire, and lives and works in London. His work has appeared in numerous journals, both in print and online. He is the author of the novel, All the Dogs.

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The Roadkill Cookbook  

The poems in this short collection make their way through the cities and landscapes of Europe and America, while returning to the small town...

The Roadkill Cookbook  

The poems in this short collection make their way through the cities and landscapes of Europe and America, while returning to the small town...

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