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by Elanor Ross Taylor
The fork lived with the knife
and found it hard — for years
took nicks and scratches,
not to mention cuts.
She who took tedium by the ears:
defiant stretched-out lettuce,
He who came down whack.
His conversation, even, edged.
Lying beside him in the drawer
she formed a crazy patina.
The seasons stacked —
melons, succeeded by cured pork.
He dulled; he was a dull knife,
while she was, after all, a fork.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: The Kitchen Revue by Bohuslav Martinu
Where the immemorial and the instant meet, opening and distance appear.
Through the opening: a door, crack of light.
Behind the door, a kitchen.
Where the knife rises and falls, clouds gather, disperse.
A lightspeed joining of life and death, cut
in two: halves of a sun, of slowness.
Halves of a turnip.
A mother in the kitchen, a lifetime of cuts.
A cabbage cut into mountains and rivers,
a fish, cut along its leaping curves,
laid on the table
still yearning for the pond.
cut into premonitions of snow.
A potato listens to the onion-counterpoint
of the knife, dropping petals at its strokes:
self and thing, halves of nothing
at the center of time.
Where gone and here meet, the knife rises, falls.
But this mother is not holding a knife.
What she has been given is not a knife
but a few fallen leaves.
The fish leaps over the blade from the sea
to the stars. The table is in the sky now,
the market has been crammed into the refrigerator,
and she cannot open cold time.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Tunes from China by Bright Sheng
On Cooking a Symbol at 400 Degrees
I butterflied Australian rack of lamb
with shallots, garlic, parsley, butter, wine
(some in the pan, some for the palate).
Although the livestock loved in nursery rhyme
avoided clumps of mint, it served my family
nonetheless. I am no PETA zealot
(leather jacket, handbag, wallet, shoes)
but wonder if the deeds we do pursue
us in the afterlife. Does the fleecy
creature have a tenderable claim?
My lambent mind considers our short lease
on life, the oven hot. Am I to blame?
Who gave thee such a tender voice? asked Blake.
Myself am Hell. I watch the mutton bake.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Cats in the Kitchen by Phillip Bimstein (video not available)
Passion for Solitude
By Cesare Pavese
I’m eating a little supper by the bright window.
The room’s already dark, the sky’s starting to turn.
Outside my door, the quiet roads lead,
after a short walk, to open fields.
I’m eating, watching the sky—who knows
how many women are eating now. My body is calm:
labor dulls all the senses, and dulls women too.
Outside, after supper, the stars will come out to touch
the wide plain of the earth. The stars are alive,
but not worth these cherries, which I’m eating alone.
I look at the sky, know that lights already are shining
among rust-red roofs, noises of people beneath them.
A gulp of my drink, and my body can taste the life
of plants and of rivers. It feels detached from things.
A small dose of silence suffices, and everything’s still,
in its true place, just like my body is still.
All things become islands before my senses,
which accept them as a matter of course: a murmur of silence.
All things in this darkness—I can know all of them,
just as I know that blood flows in my veins.
The plain is a great flowing of water through plants,
a supper of all things. Each plant, and each stone,
lives motionlessly. I hear my food feeding my veins
with each living thing that this plain provides.
The night doesn’t matter. The square patch of sky
whispers all the loud noises to me, and a small star
struggles in emptiness, far from all foods,
from all houses, alien. It isn’t enough for itself,
it needs too many companions. Here in the dark, alone,
my body is calm, it feels it’s in charge.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Intermezzo in A Op. 118, No. 2 by Johannes Brahms
Breakfast for Supper
At IHOP, after the skinny brunette
with a band-aid covering her hickey
comes to whisk away burnt toast,
Mom mentions Theresa, face
brightening. She had a dream
about her—80s flip hair, smooth
complexion. I’ve been living
in Tulsa for eighteen years,
Theresa said. I understand.
Even as I watched men lower
her casket, I fantasized the witness
protection program had resettled her.
How funny we look, mother
and daughter laughing over
scrambled eggs, tears dripping
onto bacon, hands hugging
coffee mugs. For a moment Mom felt
Theresa there. Such faith. Freshen
your cup? the waitress asks me, poised
to pour. Cloudy in the cold coffee,
my reflection. I offer the mug.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: A Little Breakfast Music by Rick Sowash (video not available)