The night before my Old French exam
I take Hugh out for All-You-Can-Eat Chinese.
String-frayed duck meat is baby-swaddled
in pancake packages with spring onion rattles,
and from behind a cumulus of prawn crackers,
she tells me she is going to die alone.
I drag her to the chocolate fountain,
and we cover for each other as we shove
little red soy sauce dishes under the cascade,
staring down the grammatically incorrect sign
printed in comic sans which tells us we're being rebels.
When this doesn't help I suggest a drink at Popolo's.
I order an Espresso Martini - a triangle of black ice
with an archipelago of coffee beans dotted across
its thin layer of cream. A small miracle
of vodka and coffee combined - I hold it aloft
like the Holy Grail.
We mourn the end of our second year at Durham,
and The Courteeners play 'Not Nineteen Forever'.
When I start translating this year's Eurovision songs
into Old French Hugh takes me home.
My caffeine-resistant dreams are full of places
I've never been; castles in Brittany and Cornish coastlines,
all painted with the red and blue of chivalry, stitched
in fairy-flax. The house is silent and dawn-grey
when I wake. I veto the coffee and make tea.
Two coins of store-bought pancakes
turn gold in the toaster.
The exam room is cold and full of angles.
A white tongue-wad of a dead language
is slapped down in front of me,
and my mind begins buzzing:
“Amurs est plaie dedenz cors
e si ni piert niënt defors;
ceo est uns mals ki lunges tient,
pur ceo que de nature vient...”
I look up, the examiner stares back.
“You may begin.”