“When’s a Fork a Spoon” by Marianne Boruch

Marianne Boruch


When’s a fork a spoon
or a spoon a fork, little
tines stinging out at the end?
Weird and not right but

handy, she insisted. And runcible,
good, long-lived. The owl,
the pussycat—you know that poem—
out to sea in a beautiful boat

by a small guitar, my love
and the rest of it … But a spoon
with those straightaway thorns. A fork
flooding up to the brim. Next

they’ll razor the edge and call it
knife. What to cut then?
Once a tongue and a mouth.
And anything you gave it.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010


Marianne Boruch: “This poem is part of a sequence, The Book of Hours, of what I think of as eerie and irreverent secular prayers, each written in early morning silence, coming from who-knows-where. They were gifts. And though a runcible spoon—a bit of nonsense first mentioned by Edward Lear in ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’—came to mean a weird multiple-use hand-held utensil at meals, it suggests in this piece exactly what, I’m not sure. But in the rush of the poem’s coming onto the page, the sweet singing ‘to a small guitar,’ the confusion of knife/fork/spoon and the way we feed and feed anyway those loved ones who are dying—all became a way of grief. Thus this poem. And thus poetry.”

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