Illusion Foods

a Medieval Love Story 


Now husband and wife, 
the broken coin exchanged, 
a half for each. 
Floral crown on the mantelpiece 
a dark little stain on the sheets. 
Dressed up and married, 
she waits for him to lead. 
He eyes the long landscape, 
she touches the froth on the trees. 
Mist lifts slowly off the lake. 
Black swans drift past 
but he doesn’t step forward. 
He laughs and shrugs and 
lifts his head. 
She tenses, ready to follow. 
On the rough wooden table 
the salad of herbs arranged like flowers 
delicate parsley 
earthy sage 
blue borage simmering with bees 
the fat, hairy border of comfrey. 
Chanting from the village. 
Two figures come close then leave. 
A light rain falls and she 
grows heavy. 
It is time to put on 
their everyday clothes. 
All they have done is nothing. 
Nothing is left in their shadow 
turned upside down 
cast aside 
except themselves. 
She won’t meet his eye. 
He can’t meet hers. 
Some black swans cry 
The quick path home. 
The reek of pennyroyal 
They fall, bewildered, into bed. 
On the wooden table the spray of herbs 
weighted by dew 
releases its various scents. 
All summer she makes this recipe. 
Pricks both ends of an egg with a pin 
then blows softly through 
to empty the yolk, the white. 
Flushes the shell under a tap. 
Warm water enters and exits the tiny holes. 
She mixes milk of almonds with sugar 
colours half the mix with saffron 
and cinnamon 
and with the finest funnel 
sifts white 
then yellow then white 
into the shell to make as if an egg 
(its yolk a yellow girdle) 
and heats it over the fire to set. 
To begin with he delighted 
in the sweet trick 
then started to long for an egg, 
the real thing, instead. 
He stops at the kitchen door 
sees her, her lovely mouth 
pressed to the crown of an egg, 
transparent white streaked with yellow 
oozing from its end. 
Growing out of the compost 
a tumble of tomatoes 
and beside them, 
four grey-skinned pumpkin 
between pale sun and compost they are warm. 
He picks the pumpkin one by one 
and tomatoes in a viney bunch, 
a bridal spray. 
He makes five journeys to the kitchen 
where he wipes them with a clean cloth 
and sets them along the bench, 
a garland. 
She makes pumpkin and tomato soup 
and a hare’s head out of bread 
they use one ear each to dip in their soup 
scooping it hungrily. 
The meal is good. 
‘A present from the compost,’ he says 
and they smile as she tears 
the earless hare’s head in two. 
She brushes snow from the path 
her blue skirt, its damp hems 
gritty against her ankles. 
Her ankles, shins and feet throb with cold. 
She drops the brush 
leaving the path half-cleared 
half-lumpy with snow. 
Inside she drops her skirt to the floor 
steps into the warm, rough stuff 
of her husband’s trousers 
ties them against her legs with leather straps. 
Her husband watches her disappear. 
She fossicks at the base of trees 
kicks through red and orange leaves 
runs down a gentle slope to a stream, 
follows its silver thread. 
That night he makes a pudding dense with raisins 
bristling with thinly-sliced almonds, 
a fat hedgehog, 
they eat it sitting in chairs beside the window. 
Later in bed she straddles him 
her face towards his feet. 
‘I am a Fool’ she says 
‘And that makes me an Ass,’ he smiles 
‘No, no,’ she says, ‘I am the Ass’ 
and gently he pulls her under him. 
‘There is no way to do this well,’ he says 
‘let’s do it badly.’ 


Lynn Davidson has published two collections of poetry, Mary Shelley’s Window and Tender, and a novel, Ghost Net. Her poem ‘Illusion Foods’ is from a collection of poetry written this year as part of her MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters.