The Cook: part two (poem)
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…”
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
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(2016, Stephanie Foster)