This week our Friday Poem is ‘Selfridges’, the opening number from Tamar Yoseloff’s A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems.
First published in Sweetheart (Slow Dancer Press, 1998), ‘Selfridges’ portrays an intermingling of awe and repulsion as the speaker, in her youth, stumbles upon the meat counter whilst shopping with her mother.
A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems encompasses selections from four of Yoseloff’s published print volumes: Sweetheart, Barnard’s Star, Fetch and The City with Horns; and poems from her collaborations with artists: Formerly, Marks and Desire Paths, as well as a generous selection of beautiful new poems.
My mother held a wire basket in one hand,
my hand in the other. Occasionally she’d pause
to cross an item from her list as she plucked it
from the shelf. For a brief moment she released
her grip and I must have wandered off,
realised I was lost near the butcher’s counter.
The full odour of fresh meat, blood and sawdust
hit me suddenly; I looked up to see hares, headless,
strung from metal hooks. I don’t think I’d even seen
a hare alive. The butcher was hacking a flank into steaks,
the first cut opening the bright pink of the leg,
the second negotiating bone. But what stopped me
in my tracks was the offal, displayed lovingly on a bed
of lettuce and ice – lambs’ kidneys, calves’ livers,
sweetbreads, hearts – all the vitals without function.
Just then I felt my mother yank me by the wrist;
she must have scolded me for drifting away
in a strange store, a foreign country, I can’t recall.
Twenty-five years later I can still see
those visceral hunks, served up like a delicacy,
indelicate, hearty, more real laid out there
than anything that beat inside me.
A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems is available from the Seren website: £12.99
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