Cooking Duck for the Gestapo
The rumour all started, when Eva Braun,
normally, the epitome of Nazi discretion, blurted it,
giggling wildly to her chum Madelene in the kitchen
while nibbling on salty pretzels and saucing up
with a spicy Gewurtztraminer, one hot Summer
at one of Hermann Goering's cocktail parties in
Obersalzberg. It was just like blowing a kiss.
Little did Eva realise that Madelene
was actually Emily Smithe, hailed from Cambridge, worked
for the MI5 and was an aspiring songwriter hot on the coattails
of Vera Lynn's White Cliffs of Dover. Hitler's crown jewels, it appeared,
turned out to be a single nut; the Limeys howled,
as they marched in tow on the damp shores of Omaha Beach -
claiming the other (of the pair) was on display in a glass case
in full view in the Albert Hall - and they cheered, rumbling into Paris
with Eisenhower and his Yanks, and the Frogs waved multitudes
of mini Star Spangled Banners and Union Jacks,
tossing shreds of the last three years of newspapers just like confetti,
and berets too, since they were now out of fashion.
Paris had finally crumbled, like dry biscuits
through Goering's melting, chocolate meddling fingers;
and six months later, when Berlin was tumbling too, shattering ear drums,
dizzy, and chock full of swirling dust, Babette cooked Duck a l'Orange
for the Gestapo - served up with a bottle of Mouton Rothschild
1937 Bordeaux pilfered from the Duke of Lyon's once burgeoning cellars -
with petit pois, carrots and roasted potatoes (all home grown).
She spiced the duck, tenderly, with salt and pepper,
and a smattering of rat poison she found in the garden shed
beside dead pots of flowering poppies, once dabbled, left there to rot
by her grand-pere Armand, from long before Nazis,
when rats still reminded common folk of the plague, boils and all;
but now rats made for good frying meat, tender and moist,
and if you could bring yourself to
chop off their tails with a butcher's knife,
they almost looked like wild rabbit that was a stunted in the leg.
What with all the flying bombs,
and debris, arms and legs, willy-nilly, lying about,
rats were getting plump, and ducks, mostly, ducks
wisely remained South for the duration
avoiding all the spitting barrage and petty fireworks.
Pretty Babette was caught, alone, in the final stronghold
of three trigger-happy SS officers with enflamed libidos
and engorged holsters, somewhere in a farmhouse
in sometime pretty La Maisonette.
Babette, had two hidden eider ducks
she kept fat for a special occasion, tucked it in her attic,
nurtured from mother's eggs, and fed on stale bread rind,
dried cornmeal, and whatever else Babette could find,
stuffing them honking, like the nightly whoop of London, daily,
like an old musket, with a plunger, so their swollen livers
were almost bursting, and would make the smoothest foie gras -
fit for a gallant knight in armour, a handsome marquis, or even a king.
Karl and Heinz and Klaus were handsome Aryan boys
with pretty blue eyes and crew cuts like corn fields.
They prided themselves in their appearance and knew all women
swooned for them. Karl and Heinz were from Wiesbaden,
a town of healing water and dainty German ladies with parasols;
Klaus was from Kiel, so he brought along fat cigars.
To Babette they just looked like adolescents, three model soldiers,
in a shiny tin army, with the shiny skull and crossbones
of pirates pinned to their black lapels.
And while they tucked into duck and roasted potatoes
Babette's three brothers: Max, Abraham and Jacob roasted, in the flesh,
in a tin-roof shack somewhere beyond the sombre forests
of Prague, their ribbons of smoke guiding lost brothers, fallen cousins,
baffled mothers, withering fathers, like a long trail of grey breadcrumbs
up into the sky and deep beyond the charcoal battered clouds.
In her mind, Babette imagined her brothers as Franz Kafa
had once imagined his own demise as an insect,
upturned on his hard convex back, broken legs almost pointing upwards,
showing God and the universe precisely where he was headed.
Now she watched the fat duck soaked lips,
the red-wine-stained teeth of Karl, Heinz and Klaus
and waited for them to reach for their throats, clench their
stomachs and roll over like dying beetles, but they didn't:
they laughed and told dirty jokes in German and turned the radio
to an old Bavarian folksong, hooking arms and swaying to and fro.
Babette concluded, watching death was like waiting for the tide to rise,
and she remembered briefly a trip to Mont Saint Michel
when she was twelve with Max and Abraham and Jacob when they
had collected mussels in their shells.
Back in Berlin, the Ruskis were peppering the
Reichstag with holes, flying red stars and losing machine gun bullets,
and Eva had forgotten all about Hitler's crown jewels, even though
she now knew she was really the princess, and as she bit down on
her wedding present from Adolf himself, it foamed at her mouth
just like the swell of a wave and she honked like a duck being stuffed.
Adolf couldn't be bothered to wait for the tide and just jumped in.
Above in the skies he could make out a trail of what looked just like
breadcrumbs, there were nearly stars in his eyes -
and stars and stripes and stars and sickles and stripes
were coming in from every direction; when Klaus stepped out to
have a pee he fell in pieces; and Heinz and Karl expired from duck,
head-first in their hot plates, and Babette, drank the rest of the wine,
toasted her three lost brothers and dug into her long-awaited foie gras
with a small piece of buttered toast and
a whole, round truffle.