The Cook: part two (poem)

Posted by ractrose on 9 Jul 2018 in Art, Poems

Pastel drawing of medieval cook mocked by red bird



The Cook: part two


Seeks he in his master’s forest fallen limbs

Or standing deadwood; he begins to notice birds

Flock from tree to tree

One carols as though lord of finches

The cook clouts his staff against a stone

And when the song and chatter ceases

He is alone. Alone, but for a scarlet

Feathered sentinel, who sings:


Who obeys the king?

Why obey the king?

Thou obey’st the king!

Lowly man, his servant


Doth murder riches bring?

Fire evil cleanse?

Blood upon thy hands!

A fool gets his desserts


“Mock me!” the cook embeds his hatchet

And cannot pry it free, the grosbeak flits

And sings again:


One has come to court the princess

One outwits her in a footrace, this

For she is schooled in knavery

By thy sovereign’s close-couched bravery

Now he’d fain deny the victor…

A toady’s blaze to sauce a gander!


“I have been asked to make a fire.

Nothing more. Perhaps my king wishes

Death to these men. He has not said it.”

The cook, grumbling thus, hears a stranger clear his throat

“Does your life mean nothing to you?”


The stranger glances at the hatchet;

He is weaponless but for a tablet

Made of clay on which he etches

Busily. He clarifies: “I suppose…should the deity command you

In the way of Abraham…your faith’s perfection would permit

No question…therefore God’s anointed

Embodying His Will, condemns or spares

With like impunity—”

“You speak familiarly…”

“Not so.” He looks up from his jottings, adding:

“I say you, Cook.”

The wounded birch gives up the blade

As all things rooted in this glade

Have speech, the cook is roundly cursed

He bowls into the stranger’s legs

“You are impertinent,” he says, “and yet I know full well…”

“I am,” the stranger lends a hand, “from the Fairy Realm

Free Press and Daily Reporter. He lowers his voice

“Now, off the record—

This you know…the king has peers

in other nations; or, might ask the duke, his brother;

Or, his vassals, yeoman farmers…”

“Ask what?”

He shrugs away this interruption.

“Why, to do a foul assassin’s bidding. You laugh.”

The cook has merely barked in wrath; the reporter

Smiles congenially: “Of course you’re right; the thought’s absurd—

That landholders, men of noble birth

could be gulled into a thankless task.”



The Cook: part two
Virtual cover for poetry collection Mystery PlaysThe Cook: part three
















(2016, Stephanie Foster)



%d bloggers like this: