Fray Bentos Corned Beef

by Finola Scott


To use the gift key? Look it in the mouth, check its firmness, its mettle? Unlock and turn, turn. And always check the route. Does it keep to the path or have its own desires? Thumb and forefinger march on together. Other hand tightly grips the base. Never anxious, no fear, always steady, confident. Hold firm, then release. A full belly is the reward. Haunches, rump, taken from the Pampas in Argentina. Where grass sways, gauchos herd and macho-corral. Where hooded-eyed birds stalk roadsides. Taken to a cannery in the town of Fray Bentos. Tins loaded on ships to cross an ocean, slicing lines of longitude and latitude. To a warehouse to a shop to this house. For this lazy day lunch.

On reflection I never regretted those cuts, deep-river quick. The inevitable ritual of opening. That red kite slash winging over flesh. Blade sharp like the fresh grass we used to summer-whistle. The blood letting so sure, dedicated to release Argentina’s beef. That cooked flesh, brown mottled yellow. Like Granny’s linoleumed back pantry in Belfast. And those summers full of tartan-rugged picnics on moorland, peewits crying, bog-cotton smoothed. Thick slices on always white bread and ever the HP sauce. Brown on brown, spice continents colliding. Not ever lettuce, cucumber, parsley.

I want to be an egret soaring on the Pampas, beyond reach.


Finola Scott is published widely in the UK & Eire. Her poems are found on posters, postcards and tapestries as well as in magazines and anthologies including New Writing Scotland, The Fenland Reed and Lighthouse. Current Makar of the Federation of Writers, her pamphlet Much left Unsaid is published by Red Squirrel Press.


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