Preparez – vous à des ragouts,
De rats aux champignons d’egouts’ Victor Hugo, Paris 1870
All night Krupps’ cannons pound the walls,
darkness smells of soil and gas
and at Voison’s, rue Cambon, a special black card
buys sauce souris on pate of rat.
It’s a challenge to garnish donkey with cepes;
there’s a gold market for cats of all colours
and now that all the lights are extinguished
everyone’s face looks like someone else’s.
At the Menagerie, a bear roams untended,
the African parrot is losing his feathers.
Castor feels itching deep in his trunk,
Pollux pads in the snow and shivers.
The gates of the Jardin des Plantes have been chained
for over a week, but now carts from de Boos
are waiting outside. Zebras are easy, Martin the bear
puts up a fight, so they draw on a ruse
and Adolphe Lebeeque, whom Castor knows well
wheels out the last kilo of branches and fruit
which he tips at the base of their sandpaper tree
as others take aim from the rainwater butt.
Baggy grey lumps too big to be dragged
so they’re jointed there in a scratch abbatoir.
Feet sliced away first, and eager talk spreads
to long lines outside the Boucherie Courtier.
A starving gourmet hurries out,
the carrier pidgeon’s fragile message
unfurled says, Yes! There’s going to be
a siege menu of ‘variety meats’ and elephant blood sausage.
Goncourt dines that evening, the sky
is brilliant with the enemy’s flares.
There’s consomm’ Oliphant, and filet de mullet
and rarest, by Choron, the trompe sauce Chasseur,
nearly spoiled by Adolphe, who wept in the snow,
arms round the dead Castor’s trunk, while at a distance
the butchers stood waiting to finish their work.
Adolphe wouldn’t let go and they cursed at the nuisance.