Not knives or pans. The genius of a kitchen
is the wooden spoon, that archaic thing –
a dugout unchanged since the Neolithic
or before. Impervious to heat, stained
by its meetings with food – soups, pulses, gravies,
pastas – its colour deepens slowly
from beech or cherry to the almost-black
midwinters of the mulled wines it has drunk.
Changed like us by what it works in
it wears its tip flat, nudging against
the angle of pans, poling mudbanks of lentils
or the sulky tidal liquor of a stew.
So harmless a gingham ruff and some marks
in felt pen can turn it into a doll,
it speaks still of a world before metals:
reaching for it this moment your hand
senses the magic, and recognises its kin.


The Lantern


No pumpkin. This October I’ve gone back
to what my hands remember best – the wrench
and press, sore skin and aching wrists. You slice
the top off first to make a lid, then hack
and gouge until the spoon bends, scraping out
hard yellow parings. Use a knife to pierce
a grin and staring eyes, then fix the stump
of candle that will give it flickering life,
uncanny and oracular despite
that smell of scorching root. A turnip lantern.
(Mother and Granny fussing round the kitchen,
my younger brother wanting his made too.)
I lift it: heavy, thickskinned, a golden cave,
a blazing skull trepanned and worse for wear.
—Only in thought. But next year I might just
do it: plant my lantern on the gatepost
facing the darkness. Wait and see who comes.

Grevel Lindop lives in Manchester, where he was formerly a Professor of English at the University and now works as a freelance writer. His prose books include A Literary Guide to the Lake District (Sigma); Travels on the Dance Floor (André Deutsch: a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week); The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (Crux); and Charles Williams: The Third Inkling (OUP). Carcanet Press publish his poetry, including Selected Poems, Playing With Fire, and most recently Luna Park. His blog can be read at

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