Our Sweet Flesh

Poems from the Dark Kitchen

We are excited to announce the publication of our twenty-third book, available now from our online shop. This spring issue, Dark Kitchen, is a collection of writing and art that investigates food and food culture in times of collapse. Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing some 'taster' pieces from the book. In our third post, poets Nickole Brown and Emily Hasler serve up disconcerting dishes from the realms of fairy tales and rural Kentucky, negotiating the complicated politics of what we put in our mouths. With tabletop images by Peter Cameron and Superflux.
Nickole is the author of Sister and Fanny Says, The Donkey Elegies, and To Those Who Were Our First Gods which won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize. She lives with her wife in Asheville, North Carolina. Emily lives beside the River Stour on the border of Suffolk and Essex. ‘What Gretel Knows’ comes from her first collection The Built Environment, published in 2018. Her next book, Local Interest, is forthcoming in spring 2023.

What Gretel Knows

Gretel knows what to say to the boy who thinks we’re saved.
Gretel knows, put a girl in water and she’ll drown; boil it,
she’ll cook. Gretel knows there’s no salvation; only storage,
refrigeration, freezing. A fairytale of Tupperware, stained
and scratched, sudded beside the sink. Even old crones
have to eat. We be fat. We be lean. Gretel knows it’s just
a change of state, conduction of heat. Gretel knows
how we swell and settle like dough with weight of air, time.
The child hacked from the wolf’s stomach, pulled from the womb,
taken from the oven or the pot. But Gretel knows it is too late.
The ingredients in us activate. A raising. Our edges puff and blur,
give and take of the world about us. It doesn’t matter, Gretel told him,
she knows that the house is cake for fuck’s sake. The earth
is seasoning. Our sweet flesh is so tender it flakes between
our fingers. Gretel knows. That the wicked stepmother,
the old crone, Baba Yaga, me – Gretel – we are all the same.
Archetypal and obsessed with our stomachs. Gretel says:
This is the bread that broke the body. This is my body: take it. Eat.
This is the tongue that licked the bowl of the cement mixer clean.

Emily Hasler

THE WASP place setting from ‘Refuge for Resilience’ by Superflux (photo: Mark Cocksedge)

A Vegetarian’s Guide to Table Manners in Kentucky

First, know how to hide
your tracks: pick out the red flecks
when no one’s looking, slip
what you don’t want in your mouth
into that of the near-toothless
poodle catching scraps, never
under any circumstance admit the beans
taste good unless you want to hear
your aunt slipped an ice-cream scoop
of lard in the pot as soon as you turned
your pretty head.

Yes, any goody two-shoes fresh
from college best learn to jostle
the talk so dinner doesn’t land smack
into the lap of all those dumb jokes,
because while the mamas round the table
might worry you’re getting enough
protein and fret every bit of your hair
falling out, the young Adam’s apples
have their ammunition stocked and ready
to fire, saying, hey, I’m on a vegetarian diet
too, and boy, they taste
great, saying, if animals don’t want
to be eaten, then why are they made
of meat?

Yes, if you’re like me, you best realise
if you don’t giggle just a little
at your rough cousin
what an ass you’ll seem, showing everybody
just how all those books have
ruined you for good. Learn how to
take it, and if not, at least know better
than to get militant and fire back
a few chick-grinding facts, because fuck it
to hell if you hadn’t once already spoiled
supper with tales of de-beaked hens
strung upside down and boiled alive,
or if Fourth of July before last
you didn’t go and piss on the grill
saying most likely the beef was made tough
with adrenaline when the stun gun
didn’t do its quick work and the wet eyes
of that cow saw what was
in store. Listen, it ain’t easy, but
laugh it off, take it best you can,
because look around that table—

see if there aren’t faces you’ve loved
your whole damn life, even if at meal’s end
you know just what that toothpick’s picking
from their smiles. Besides, nothing’s worse
than someone who forgets
from where they came, who denies
all those hot-sauce smacking
thighs you tore into as a kid,
mama saving the best crunchy bits
from the skillet just for you. Keep in mind
there are just some things you don’t say
after grace, like how much the light bill is
overdue or what’s going to happen when
that balloon pops
on the mortgage or who voted for
who or what the man
at the head of the table did to you
in the basement when you were young
enough to believe bacon grew on
trees and every other lie
you were told. No, you keep it

to yourself, stay good
natured as you can, ask him
to pass the pitcher of sweet tea. It’s the way it
goes, because tomorrow, when the whole crew
puts on their Sunday best and goes to town, the
severed wings of fifty birds will be made
delicious with butter and hot sauce, ordered up
extra crispy, extra wet. The waitress will wink and
brings two plates—
one heavy with meat, the other empty to pile
bones sucked clean, and when you ask for salad,
your uncle will say, Come on now.
If animals didn’t want to be eaten, they should run faster
and stop tasting so damn good.

You have to understand me now because
he never will. You have to know how tired those men
are, working hard enough to lose pieces of the very
thing that put food on this table—one thumb chewed
off with a wet saw, another knuckle sliced with a miter,
all their hands
so blood-blister black and dry they can
crack open their knuckles by just making
a fist, and you’ve seen how they try
to mend what’s left by
sleeping in kitchen gloves filled with
Vaseline. They’re dog-tired, so hungry
they could eat a horse, and besides, they’re too
beat to try to save much of anything, especially
the world, made as it is for anyone
but them.

Nickole Brown


TOP IMAGE: Peter Cameron
Tabula Rasa
Oil on canvas

What we ingest energetically informs our systems’ internal and external environment, our bodies of perception. Generative Earth forever reflects her qualities through each of our relationships. As we look into a pond we may dive into that immersion but also reflect off the surface, knowing our mental structures cannot hold an impossibly complex centre. Thankfully we are within returning circles.

Peter Cameron is largely self-taught, and has been painting, drawing and sculpting most of his life. He states that through actively engaging the imaginal spirit within our arts practices we can prosper the reciprocal nature of our earthly sense perceptions. Living in Sydney, Australia, he has produced around 20 solo exhibitions, publishes poetry, and his works are collected publicly and privately. petercameron.com.


Fighting nature
(from ‘Refuge for Resilience’)
Brass rod with guinea fowl feather, brass caddy spoon, honey dipper, bowl and offering

Made throughout 2020: Leanne Fischler sourced and foraged materials for the ceremonial cutlery (for the ‘Refuge for Resilience’ table installation) – lichen, brake lights, avian bones, circuit bones – from around the Orkney Islands. Ed Lewis and his father Gareth Lewis hewed species-specific stools in Oxfordshire. Steeped in Indian Miniatures, Nicola Ferrao illustrated the ceramic plates in North London. Matt Edgson developed the world on the other side of the window from which our guest arrived. Anab Jain and Jon Ardern broke and used kintsugi to remake the plates and bring it all together. Photo by Mark Cocksedge.

Founded in 2009 by Anab Jain and Jon Ardern, Superflux is a design studio, consultancy and research lab that constructs speculative worlds and experimental scenarios that allows people to imagine and explore alternate futures in a climate-altered world. Superflux weaves emerging trends in climate, technology, politics, society and culture together with the understanding that humanity occupies just one element in a richly complex system of life.


Dark Mountain: Issue 23 – Dark Kitchen

The Spring issue 2023 is set around our Dark Kitchen table where writers, artists and cooks explore food culture in a time of unravelling

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