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Ivy Alvarez

Curing the animal

My husband hands me the animal.
A soft neck roll and a dead eye,
a lustreless fur that I must touch
to strip and salt and peg to dry.
He is away all the day in the dust.
a eucalypt oil smell taints his neck
he comes to me
bones meeting mine
a hard fit
a green lawn at the edge of a desert
my heart, inexact

There is a sharp knife in the house.
I gather the wattle bark and boil it in a drum,
leave the skin to reek and call flies to it.
weeks pass, his eyes squint with distance,
monosyllables doled out, hard shillings
minted rare from his mouth, whiskers on his chin
scratch my skin. I pretend. Sleep.

Pulling one parsnip each, one leek.
The hard-fought cream, the butter's luxury.
The wallaby seasons its last useful night,
salt and pepper crusts its meat, the oil rolling
like mist off a morning.
Brown and sere of fat, it rests.
The marjoram rubs its scent on me.
The leek becomes soft, the parsnip tender
under butter. The meat drowns in gravy.
He chews 'til all the flesh is gone.
I pull the reddish hide from the reeking drum,
tip water to thirsty ground,
watch it drain.

“Curing the animal” was first published in Cordite 29: Pastoral (2008). The guest poetry editor for this issue was Stuart Cooke.

Ivy Alvarez

Ivy Alvarez is the author of Mortal (Red Morning Press, 2006). Her poems feature in anthologies, journals and new media in many countries, including Best Australian Poems 2009, and have been translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. In May 2011, she was invited to give readings in Seoul, Korea, as part of Cordite's Oz-Ko Poetry Tour. A recipient of several awards and prizes, she has received funding towards the writing of her second book from the Australia Council of the Arts and from Literature Wales. Previous writing residencies include MacDowell Colony (USA), Hawthornden Castle (Scotland), Fundación Valparaiso (Spain) and Booranga Writers Centre (Australia).

A visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Chester in 2010, she is the series editor of A Slice of Cherry Pie and We Don't Stop Here, which are poetry chapbook anthologies inspired by David Lynch’s cult TV show Twin Peaks and his film Mulholland Drive. She also writes reviews and articles and has guest-edited for Cordite and qarrtsiluni. Born in the Philippines, Ivy Alvarez grew up in Tasmania, Australia. She acquired British citizenship in 2010.


A Typical Day At Work 

Previously, I have worked stints in retail (bookseller), features writer for a commercial magazine, researcher for a university professor and administrator/grant writer for a dance company. My recent work as a visiting lecturer in creative writing (University of Chester) feels like the closest intersection of my poetry life and the academic life I once thought would be my path. As a freelancer nowadays, work can vary from delivering poetry and writing workshops, to poetry readings all over the UK. In the current climate, this practice is getting harder to continue, so I am again beginning the quest to find other sources of steady income.