Curing the Animal

3 December 2008

My husband hands me the animal.
A soft neck roll and a dead eye,
a lustreless fur that I must touch
to strip and salt and peg to dry.
He is away all the day in the dust.
a eucalypt oil smell taints his neck
he comes to me
bones meeting mine
a hard fit
a green lawn at the edge of a desert
my heart, inexact

There is a sharp knife in the house.
I gather the wattle bark and boil it in a drum,
leave the skin to reek and call flies to it.
weeks pass, his eyes squint with distance,
monosyllables doled out, hard shillings
minted rare from his mouth, whiskers on his chin
scratch my skin. I pretend. Sleep.
Pulling one parsnip each, one leek.
The hard-fought cream, the butter's luxury.
The wallaby seasons its last useful night,
salt and pepper crusts its meat, the oil rolling
like mist off a morning.
Brown and sere of fat, it rests.
The marjoram rubs its scent on me.
The leek becomes soft, the parsnip tender
under butter. The meat drowns in gravy.
He chews 'til all the flesh is gone.
I pull the reddish hide from the reeking drum,
tip water to thirsty ground,
watch it drain.

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