Weekend Poetry: Madeleines
In a workshop, every participant considers the crumbling madeleine
to be the most striking image of the poem. Instead, I focus on the word ‘unslippage’
and the solidity of the walls mentioned. I don’t remember hearing the writer mention the
I am sitting in a bookshop directly opposite a book entitled Master Patissier.
Master Patissier has pink and white macarons on its cover.I imagine falling in love
with a Master Patissier, then google how long it might taketo train to become one.
Six months of thirty-hour weeks, or nine months of fifteen to eighteen-hour weeks.
I would obviously try to do it in six months, I think.
When I imagine a future love, I imagine their occupation first. I always thought I should
fall in love with an architect. I had a boyfriend whose favourite band was Architects.
It seemed, at the time, close enough.
When I went to university, my father bought me three personal alarms and an alarm
for the window of my bedroom. I had chosen the room with the fire escape ladder.
That was a dangerous thing to do, my father said. I would accidentally set the alarms
off from time to time, usually when I was sitting alone at my desk, wondering
if I should eat, and if I did, what might cause the least guilt.
The alarms disappeared at some point. I have no recollection of packing
them when I came to leave. They might still be under the bed or desk, waiting to be triggered.
In Primary School, my class was taught to blanket stitch while making Christmas decorations.
We were all to sew Christmas trees, and decorate them with glitter glue. Like most children,
I wanted mine to be the very best. Yours would have been the best, said my teacher, except
for this one stitch where the fabric isn’t quite lined up. And why is it pink and white, when
everyone else’s is green?
A friend texts me to tell me about an exhibition she has just seen. She tells
me about twelfth-century Chinese scrolls, potion books from medieval France
and oyster shells with love charms written on the inside. I don’t tell her that I want
to name my next book Send Shells. Instead, I write back: I particularly like the idea
of the oyster shells; that belongs in a poem.
I could bake madeleines, but the first time I eat something, I like it to be presented
to me, cooked by someone else. This is how you know something is good: when it tastes
good because it is good and not just because you have worked hard to create it.
There is also the problem of what to do with the rest of a batch: a hazard of living alone.
I cannot find the oyster shells my friend mentioned. When I google the oyster shells
and their love charms I am presented with images of silver charm bracelets
and little silver oyster shells. All of them use the same tagline in their gift wrapping:
the world is your oyster.
When I type my own surname into my phone, it automatically corrects to ‘clams’.
Whichever route we take, the field of lavender which is next to
the field of wheat is always on our left-hand side. We imagine
ourselves walking up a pink staircase. The staircase is lined
with very green cacti and succulents. We ordered a creatures
of the sea poster but it didn’t arrive on time. There are too many
things going on, like a changing room with endless rows
of pink and yellow lockers, or a ladder on a brick wall.
We have synchronised dreams: of my neighbour lying
in the communal garden wearing a hotdog costume;
of a dog waiting outside a little white house. In our swordfights,
we are both crowned the winner: we are queens of the space
underneath a pier, or queens of the aeroplane wing outside
the window. We write postcards to our other friends. We went
out for a while and might not come back. We write in all capitals.
We keep our binoculars on the windowsill like seagulls.
We rearrange our room in a hideous and beautiful way. We wear
waterproof coats and rucksacks at all times, leave our bikes
chained to the railings of the balcony. We have another synchronised
dream: of trying to get through a gate then climbing over barbed
wire instead; of the lavender and wheat crossing their lines.
- Jenna Clake is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. Her debut collection, Fortune Cookie, was published in 2017 by Eyewear, and won the Melita Hume Prize. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Review, The Tangerine, and The Rialto.
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