VERY SPECIAL TO THE LITERARY EXPRESS
First there were sausage pies in Aberdeen,
the edges of the pie crusts Presbyterian
without adornment, perfect flaking circles.
I ate them at Great-Uncle Alexander’s,
kept back from enlistment as the youngest brother,
the one without the gift of the gab
who, asked to break bad news of a death
on the railways tactfully without undue pain,
said “Mother, you’ll not be seeing Father again.”
After pies there was a visit to the garden
to see the toad, huge, motionless and sullen,
but not from a diet of sausage pie.
I was prompted to be as courageous
as Great-Uncle Willie killed at Arras
and kneel down and with both hands pick up the toad
moving Great-Uncle Alec to eloquence;
“Your Auntie Bella has often said
that there’s a jewel in the centre of its head.”
I learnt to make pies myself under the care
and protection of the state when my father
had neglected to pay a number of school bills.
The home used to be a hunting lodge of King Charles.
I was treated like royalty, hidden from girls
and boys, who’d become no longer girls or boys,
in a kitchen where I rubbed flour and fat
into lumps as large as toads, rolled them out
for a filling of onion and corned beef.
The cook told me that I had the temperament,
an eye for detail and the right equipment,
the dry, cold hands of a pastry chef or hangman.
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