Ten Poems for Breakfast, Ana Sampson
Candlestick Press, 2019 £5.95
In ten poems selected because they all have some link to breakfast you might well expect one to contain hens, and you would not be wrong:
Barefoot, I walk to the hen house,
lift the door — reach
into the sanctuary of straw,
find the egg warm
in the cup of my hand.
The new hen still clucking,
I drop the egg into a pot of water,
butter toast, measure time.
[‘Cherry Blossom’ by Lani O’Hanlon]
So, no fluffy yellow chick to be hatched from that egg then. But it seems hens are not the only birds to be found clucking, flying and singing their way through these poems. In ‘Toaster’, by Olga Dermott-Bond:
Each Sunday morning
the bread would often get stuck
or launch itself high
across the kitchen
where dad would catch it, juggling
each flapping bird with
blackened wings. His dance
made us laugh.
This poem centred round a father sits next to ‘Breakfast with Mother’ by Catherine Edmunds, in which ‘birds in a tree hold forbidden conversations, faking / righteousness in the sight of God’.
And in ‘A Miracle for Breakfast’, by Elizabeth Bishop, birds are, in part, responsible for the miracle:
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
added by birds, who nest along the river,
— I saw it with one eye closed to the crumb —
and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
working on stone.
A ‘small brown bird’ flies towards Ted Kooosner in ‘Poem before Breakfast, ‘ferrying light / on its back, on its gliding wings,’ so someone is clearly up before the lark.
And thanks to Charles Simic, crows put in an appearance and ‘my dear Helen, / Who is also a strange bird.’
I expected these poems to make me feel hungry, and they did. But not for porridge or croissants. They made me hungry for more characters like Helen. And for lunch, birds. For dinner, birds. For afternoon, tea and supper ... birds.
If that makes me like Helen, I offer no apology.