The Spoonbill Tastes the New Menu

The table was laid with tureens, deep dishes – even vases
were shaken of flowers and filled with the tasting menu
of the season: steaming broths and stews, delicate and hearty.

The visitor trod slowly among the dishes, then, stepping carefully
into each one as if testing bathwater, paddled the fragrant
silt of herbs, undissolved stock cubes, churning up the bed

of each pot. The maitre’d pursed his lips at the scaly feet
wading about in the china, his stomach rumbling at wafts
of french onion, vichyssoise, bisque (it wasn’t his idea to invite

their esteemed guest or her unorthodox methods to the table
but the chef marked noone as more adept at judging the calibre
of soups). One by one she lowered her open bill into each

tureen, waving it in an infinity sign from side to side, filtering
for morsels, pausing to hoik a crouton into her pale throat.
She made no noise, no sign of joy. The chef peered through 

the porthole of the kitchen door, his brow beaded with sweat
until the last soup was uncovered: a bouillabaisse, dense
with clams and chunks of fish. The visitor raised her wings

in ecstasy and plunged her utensils straight into the broth,
grabbing at squid tentacles and shrimp, garlicky stock clagging
her feathers, then gave the only applause ever reported

in her career. A clack of spoons, like castanets, resounded
through the room, and the critic pressed oily prints
on the tablecloth in the run-up to flight: five lopsided stars.

by Jasmine Ann Cooray

The Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition, judged this year by award-winning poet Helen Mort, is open for entries for less than one more month! Poems are welcomed from writers of 18 years or over in the following two categories: English as an Additional Language and Open category. First Prize in both categories is £1000, with £200 for Second. The competition is open for submissions until 11pm GMT on 28 August 2017. Visit our website for more details. 

‘The Spoonbill Tastes the New Menu’ is copyright © Jasmine Ann Cooray, 2016. It is reprinted from Birdbook IV: Saltwater and Shore< (Sidekick Books, 2016) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Jasmine Ann Cooray is a poet and therapist from London, of Sri Lankan and mixed European lineage. Spurred by a silent adolescence, she now designs and implements a variety of projects that cultivate emotional literacy through poetry. In 2013 she was Writer in Residence at the National University of Singapore and has just finished tenure as a BBC Performing Arts Fellow with Spread the Word. Her first full collection is almost complete, and she is working on a collaborative poetry and aerial arts show with Upswing about what it means to trust. To balance her frequent reclusiveness, she does an excellent line in hugs. You can follow Jasmine on Twitter, and watch her read one of her poems, ‘Ice Cream Box of Frozen Curry’, here.

With this poem we continue our selection of poems from Sidekick Books’ four volumes of Birdbooks. In 2009, with two micro-compendiums under their belt, Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, the editors at Sidekick, discussed the idea of a book of bird poetry – but one in which less well known species were on equal terms with the popular ones. There are dozens of poems about herons, eagles, ravens and nightingales, not so many about the whimbrel, the ruff, the widgeon or the hobby. Paper-cut artist Lois Cordelia was recruited to give the series its distinctive covers, and over 150 artists and illustrators were commissioned over six years to complete the series. The first volume is now in its second printing. Find out more about the Birdbook series on the Sidekick website.

Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via Twitter.  

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.