Nicolas Flamel and the Parisian Housewives

The grocer calls, ‘Madame?’, sees what her eyes
tell him, what sorcery her order implies:
a palimpsest in the marbling of the ham,
a skeleton of magic inside the roast lamb.
He slices his goods on a tombstone, gives rise

to specks of ancient dust, bakes the grit into his pies. ...

About the poem

This poem was published on the Ink, Sweat and Tears website in December 2018.

The inspiration for the poem came from a visit to the History of Magic exhibition at the British Library. An exhibit showing Nicolas' Flamel’s headstone said that the stone marking the resting place of the philosopher reported to have discovered the secret to eternal life had been found in a Parisian grocery and had been used as a chopping board.

The poem takes this idea and considers what would happen if some of that magic was spread across Paris via the goods bought in the grocery. I chose the form of the rondeau because I wanted to use a French form for the poem. Initially I struggled with it, not only fitting the rules of the form but it didn’t seem to fit the rest of the poems created for my PhD. Eventually I remembered the reason I started writing was because I found it fun. I let go of ideas about whether it fit within my PhD collection and just enjoyed the process of writing what I wanted to write. It still doesn’t fit with the PhD and that’s OK with me. I enjoyed the challenge of working to a strict form, of rediscovering the enjoyment of finding the words to fit in a rhyme scheme and generally made myself smile by writing it.

The poem is partly about the power of confidence, and so the process for writing it was perhaps inevitable. I love what I do, but sometimes I forget why I started doing it and this poem was a great way to discover that early, youthful spark in myself.