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Four Poems by Fraser Sutherland

Fraser Sutherland

Consistency

When the soldiers came in their armoured vehicle they gave the little Muslim boys candy bars. They gave pieces of candy bars to barking or tail-wagging dogs. When the soldiers drove away, some of the boys ran after them, ran and ran and ran until there was only one boy, run- ning, running. The next time the men came they taught the little boys to chant in English, “I love pork! I love pork!” Later, one of the soldiers grabbed a woolly black-and-white puppy. The puppy squealed in shock as the soldier hurled it in a great arc over a cliff. One of the grinning soldiers said, “Aw, that’s mean.” The local people hated the soldiers when they were kindly. They hated them when they were cruel. Mostly, they hated them when they were inconsistent.

Enjoy your meal

After I push the button to reheat a cup of coffee or a bowl of pasta, my microwave tells me: Enjoy your meal. But after I turn the dial to thaw something edible on Turbo Inverter Defrost, it does not tell me to enjoy my meal. I suppose the reasoning is that I may thaw some- thing, but that does not mean I am necessarily going to eat it. I may not eat what I cook or reheat either, but at least I have the microwave’s good wishes. So I say to you: Enjoy your meal.

Scald

Many years ago a farmwife lived with her husband, son and baby girl. One day, shifting pots on the stovetop for the men’s dinner, she tipped a saucepan of boiling water off the stove onto the baby crawling on the kitchen floor. She rushed to find a thick wool blanket to tightly wrap the baby. In those days, people believed that was the right thing to do. The baby died. After that day, the woman didn’t stop talking. She was as garrulous as her husband and son were silent. The rush of her speech held neither ideas nor opinions. She just talked and talked. When she would take a breath, the person she was talking to gratefully inserted a word. But her friend could get no further because the farm- wife would snatch it up and run with it, like a mad bird repairing a nest.

Bestseller

My brother advised me to write a bestseller. That seemed like a good idea. The books I’d written had never sold well so I didn’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to write a bestseller. Writing a bestseller was hard work, but it went well. I nailed down a plot, glued in some characters, bolted some atmosphere and applied a touch of tone. It looked pretty good when I finished. To my surprise, it didn’t become a bestseller. I asked my brother, Why not? At first he questioned my workman- ship. Then he suggested I do something else.

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