Hot fat

You see, my compassion’s not lost.
My will holds strong
Even while my soul has to
Sail ceiling-high
To withstand you –

An altered vantage point from where
I see the striped earth wire
Winking at me through its insulation,
See the oiled dust
Carried on steam and vapour
To film and fur the steel of the
Light-track, but
Look down and

See the man spooning,
With seductive menace in his eyes,
The oil:

The oil for bathing and basting the roughed potatoes
That he ladles over the rusting rim of the roasting tin –
Lifts it, lets it drop, run and drip down each metallic ridge, flake and lip
Held close –
………….So close –
To her face.

She feels the heat
As he asks what she thinks
Then riles at her thinking,
Presses: “Why think? Why? Why THINK?”
She feels the heat.

She could flip the pan the other way. Yet,

You see, my compassion’s not lost.
My will holds strong
Even while my soul has to
Sail ceiling-high
To withstand you
And your hot fat,
Dripping over the Christmas potatoes.


© Zel Norwood
The Murder Tree, Felled

I called it the Murder Tree
For the 39 crows perched in its arms
With hunched shoulders, tattered coats and
Turned heads,
Each of them looking any way but mine
As the shadow of me swung from the lowest branch,
My eyes a fixed stare at the above.

I found it one afternoon
Stricken – lying prone,
The crows, all of them, flown,
Its trunk split,
Its splinters soft,
Pallid. It had lacked heartwood.

Perhaps the Easter hailstorm finally tipped it,
But as I passed by on the chalk path
With blood surging in my heart
And my soul returned, in the body of me
I knew: the Murder Tree was not murdered,

It was felled by its own rot –
Its roots too weak to stop a new sap rising.


© Zel Norwood




Baker’s Apprentice Needed

You need not yet know,
But must possess potential to sense
How flour, sifted correctly,
Feels silken to the touch as the most
Secret folds of your skin,
Yet, must be strong enough
To withstand your work and
Respond to your kneading.

You can be taught
How to add salt with a single digit,
Tracing a spiralled furrow
Through those soft-as-snow drifts,
Walking a fingertip labyrinth,
A moat to pour in oil
Then water – the heat of which you must, must test;
Respect that yeast
Is a living, breathing being
That thrives in the same warmth
That your blood pumps
And needs knowing.

When it comes to dough,
There is no spoon or spatula in the land
To beat the cups of your hands,
Or their persistence;
Nothing like the heels of your palms
To wake the ferment to a rise.

It’s important to check
The dough answers each of several prods
Before you scoop it to a ball,
Drape it in cloth (ideally linen) wrung wet,
And place it to swell in the sun.
Its leavening cannot be rushed.

You will learn
The courage, timing and vigour
To knock it back,
To take it in hand.

You will knead
Knowing when it’s pliable enough
To shape and form
At your will,

When it’s time –
The oven turned to a high flame –
To set the rise.

The proof of the bread
Will be in the proving.

Apply within.


© Zel Norwood