Poem: Food Tester by Jonathan Edwards

Food Tester

I’d give my life for his. This poisoned fruit
that could cut short his breath or break his heart,
this leg of pork that makes him sick for days
or weeks slips easily across my lips

and down my throat. You get a feel for this,
a nose, and do the work by weight, by touch,
to cut the chance, the risk. The merest hint
of something strong in a pitcher of milk,

or in this tender flesh a tint, a fleck
to make a bite of it – just one – a bite
of death. I work alone and with my friends:
the apparatus of pipettes and scales,

the grim art of this business and the science
of my instinct. Does one drop in water
bubble or change colour, does a bit
dabbed on the wrist, just here, affect the skin,

cause it to itch, to rise and, more than this,
can chef this morning look you in the eye?
What do you know about his wife, his mother,
the sous chef’s background or the politics

of the waiter? I would give my life for his.
I’ve never seen him but I’ve heard he eats
like a pig: a mouthful of mutton, chased
with a fistful of capon, spitting words

and food across the table. Today, I face
this bird, this side of beef, this bread, this meat
and this forkful, right here. The one I’m raising
to my lips now as I feel them burn.

Originally published in the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Poetry Wales.

Jonathan Edwards won the 2014 Costa Poetry Award for his debut poetry collection My Family and Other Superheroes.

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