Ron Wilkins – The poêle à mazout

Wilkins LE P&W Humour June 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Special Edition on Humour June 2024.

The poêle à mazout, poem by Ron Wilkins.

The poêle à mazout

served as a combination room heater and stove for a one pot
meal in the gîte where Madame Boschi and I most frequently
conversed as she assisted me to fire the apparatus that I shivering
in my greatcoat had failed to master her husband
un petit ouvrier drove a small work van also serving to transport
the pack of dogs he took each weekend in season to hunt sanglier
in the mountains towering over the valley but it was gossip that glued
the village together and she liked to tell me of previous tenants
like the Spanish couple who shouted at one another all holiday
and eyebrow raised of a German ménage à trois with a furtive
glance at the nudes from my life drawing class attached to the wall
then the invitation she relayed one day with a knowing smile from
une jeune femme to go on a picnic the whole family turning out to see her
car arrive to their immense disappointment with her husband
without question all our confidences were relayed to le facteur
whose bicycle was always propped against the house when I returned
from work and I knew he would be seated at the kitchen table
partaking of the fiery local eau de vie from the bottle
containing a sunken wooden tablet with a badly inscribed
skull and crossbones we drank from at our first meeting
when the rent was agreed it being the custom in the French Alps
to partake of alcohol to deaden the pain of financial transactions
when oftentimes I would drink the vin rouge of Monsieur Boschi
c’est moi comme vigneron he would say with pride buvez! buvez Monsieur!
refilling my glass again and again with his execrable concoction
I would praise with a smile and an insincere très bien while I winced
at the memory I could not shake of the large dehydrated grey rat
that had drunk itself to death in his dusty wine press in the shed

© Ron Wilkins

Ron Wilkins is an earth scientist based in Sydney. His recent literary works have been published in The Shanghai Literary Review, The French Literary Review, StylusLit, Allegro (UK) and soon to appear in Quadrant and Science Write Now. A hobby he enjoys is identification of the more than 900 species of eucalyptus trees. He can be contacted through his poetry website

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