Sunday, September 20, 2015
~This essay was first published in Fourth Genre (2013).
Once upon a time, there was a girl who was not an orphan tended by a woman who was not a nanny in a red brick house that could never be, by any calisthenics of imagination, a castle—
though there was a view of the sea.
That girl sitting at the table was me. That woman standing by the stove was my mother.
We lived then in the late splendor of catalogues. Everything we ever wanted could be found on a glossy page. Locate the little white letter in the upper right corner, then call and place your order.
I liked to linger in lingerie, with my scissors and my paste and my tablet of red construction paper. These were old catalogues, mine to cut and alter. My mother stirred a pot of something frothy and said, “Pack a suitcase.” This was only pretend. She wanted me to choose the clothes I would take on the trip that comes after the wedding.
If the man was there, the man who was every day less my savior and more my father, he would fill a glass with water and lean beside the sink. “Did someone order a honeymoon salad?” I never got it. I shook my head. Then, he’d chuckle—“Lettuce alone!”
I noticed over time the faces of women in the catalogues. There were not many of them, so the same woman wore garment after garment, sometimes with her hair let down or her lipstick lightly blotted. One face I loved—the dark curls, the pert nose, the creamy complexion. She posed in nightgowns, pajamas, matching bras and panties. Once, I found her in a black lace body suit. Though it seemed transparent, nothing was visible beneath it. I expected a glimpse of her real body, but she had none. She was like a doll arranged on a low chaise lounge: her elbow bent by someone else, a smile painted across her lips, her bright eyes unblinking.
“Have you found what you’ll wear on your wedding night?” My mother leaned across the counter as I tore the page free and trimmed its edges.
“This,” I said, triumphant.
“That’s a little racy,” she murmured. “Why don’t you try again?”
Monday, September 14, 2015
~This poem was previously published in St. Katherine Review (2013).
Blessed be the breadmakers of la belle France
who rise before dawn to plunge their arms
into great tubs of dough. Blessed be the yeast
and its amazing redoubling. Praise the nimble
tongues of those who gave names to this plenty:
baguette, boule, brioche, ficelle, pain de campagne.
Praise the company they keep, their fancier cousins:
croissant, mille feuille, chausson aux pommes.
Praise flake after golden flake. Bless their saintly
counterparts: Jésuit, religieuse, sacristain, pets de nonne.
Praise be to the grain, and the men who grew it. Bless
the rising up, and the punching down. The great
elasticity. The crust and the crumb. Bless
the butter sighing as it melts in the heat.
The smear of confiture that gilds the plane.
And bless us, too, O my brothers,
for we have sinned, and we are truly hungry.