À La Carte, Victoria Kennefick

In the restaurant
I watch you slice a hunk of meat
on porcelain.

Your winking knife presses
to relieve muscle from fat,
soft as toothless gums.

The steak wants you to eat it,
is begging even, like a palm.
I have not eaten meat

all my adult life – its juice
an embarrassment, but now
I cannot look away. The fillet

pulsates on your plate.
Would you like a bite? you say,
extending a sliver on a fork

towards my lips. In front
of me, leaves, nuts, seeds.
To be honest, I say, I’m starving.

Copyright ©Victoria Kennefick

Reprinted by kind permission of Carcanet Press, Manchester, UK



“À La Carte” is from Victoria Kennefick’s 2021 collection Eat or We Both Starve

Set in a restaurant, the poem reverses the male gaze, with Kennefick watching what is often considered a masculine act – cutting and eating a steak. As if Alice has entered Wonderland or the poet has been micro-dosing lysergic acid, the knife winks and the steak has its own mind, begging to be eaten, pulsating on the plate.

In the third and fourth stanza we learn that the poet is a non-meat-eater, “its juice/an embarrassment”; however she “cannot look away”. The poem has a flirtatious tone in spite of, or perhaps because of, the poet’s difficulty with the “hunk of meat” before her. The appetite for food and sex are mixed together in a heady mix, with an underlying sense of questioning boundaries and taboos. It’s not a matter of “eats, shoots and leaves” but “leaves, nuts, seeds” in this imaginative and witty poem.


Victoria Kennefick is a poet from Shanagarry, Co. Cork now based in Co. Kerry. Her first collection, Eat or We Both Starve, is published by Carcanet Press and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 2021. It was an Irish Times Best Poetry Book for 2021 and was also selected as one of The Telegraph’s Best Poetry Books to Buy 2021. The collection won the Seamus Heaney Centre poetry prize.


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