Always by the hot heart of the house,
when I kissed her, flour rose from her hair.
Told recipes like stories: “When the missus’d gone out,
butter, sugar, eggs, flour – twenty cakes as quick as you like.
Then! Doily dainty footsteps down the tradesmen's stairs.
Stern as a swan, she was, her long neck in all the servants’ business,
pearls and all, she swept in, casting round for mixing bowl, spoon and sieve.
Theft is what she called it. I threw the baking tin behind some cushions.”
If I’m honest her skin was rough, her fingers scarlet-raw.
She’d worked her way up from scullery maid to Cook.
It was the budgerigar who told tales, she said; whistled “Burnee bottee,
Missus! Burnee bottee!” from its cage. One of my favourites.
Never questioned the linguistic talents of birds.
Never got my cakes to rise as plump and sweet as hers.
Josephine Corcoran won The Stafford Poetry Competition 2012. Her poetry blog is And Other Poems.