“The pressure cooker,”
My grandmother would call
Her conversation from the kitchen,
So we’d gather around the table
To finish breaking and stringing.
My father would turn the 5 o’clock newscast
Down to a mumbling monologue
But still the tragic stories and relays
Of hometown miracles
Would linger about the table,
Spiraling their white noise
Between the pop of a knuckle,
the spine-crack of a bean seed.
Drifting amongst the salty sweet aroma
Of simmering ham-hocks,
A sharp clang of soap dishes
To shatter the funeral parlor quiet,
Reminding us we were still awake.
Twenty-some odd years later,
Sometime after adolescent fears of death,
While drinking wine and looking out
The window of a busy restaurant
I realize how much
the comforting words of my uncle
Once meant as he hoed the garden
In the brittle heat-wave of some long-gone summer,
How familiar the sound of my father
Slicing cucumber, the sizzle of his frying zucinni,
My mother measuring milk and pouring drinks,
And the prattling rattle of my sister setting the table;
history lost to an old clock,
The years of time melting it’s metal innards.
But the moment still lives,
Voices long-dead still immortalized
In the smell of fresh string-beans,
A kitchen bustling with the drone
Of table-conversation and the
winking tinkle of my empty wine glass.
I gently twirl the stem
And think of the good old days,
Back when time didn’t scare me,
When people whom I loved had not yet
Been stolen from the dinner table of my memory.
I tip the waitress and walk
Into the bright of daylight,
At once in love with the crazy riff-raff of traffic,
The chipping brick of a historical town
I sometimes loathe like a misery tick.
The air of my world renewed,
Life clarified more clearly,
The bones of my flesh rejuvenated
In a way no wine ever could.
I catch a glimpse of my reflection
In a consignment shop window,
At once in love with my body,
The warm glow of it’s mortal flesh,
Right down to the crumbs
At the corners of my mouth,
The coffee-stain on my shirt collar.
I rejoice in the bleeding skin
Of a broken nail from the morning dishes
And the breaking, beating heart of me
that still lives to committo an old memory.