Kitchener

The kitchen is in charge.
It wears epaulettes, it stows the echoes
in awkward cupboards, it has the stench
of authority. People collect
in its shadows like party spooks.

This was the scullery, this was the wash-room;
now there is a street of steel,
a congregation of stools, like pews.
A get-together of cutlery,
a convocation of fruit

still life in the old shelf yet. Sweat
is still corporal. Beneath the sheen,
snatches of conversation linger, smart remarks
which the kitchen calls to order.
At its door

dogs and children with dodgem laughter
spill in and out like milk,
raise their lips in the nave, but batten mouths
in the sanctum. They are passing
through on the way to battle,

spilling blood on the lino.
The washers breathe and hump and settle,
simmering through the night.
But everyone wears kirtles
in the kitchen, with its parallel

lines, its chest full of medals,
its skewers and strange tongs. Here lies
a marriage proposal, folded in napkin,
stored in the long drawer. The table
wears scars. In this house, it is consul.

From the book Looks Familiar