25 March 2018

Belly Was Young Once, And Callow

A baking sheet, mottled black and brown, lies on the counter beside the stove top. It was never destined for the theatrics of a star restaurant, the knowing hands of a celebrity chef. Its fate was that of a journeyman. This sheet had made its way from an anonymous mill of decades past to the kitchen of my maternal grandmother, herself decades gone from this world. Fate of inheritance landed the sheet in my kitchen, also decades gone.

The sheet is warped. Creases mar the bottom. Little canyons formed years ago, by thoughtlessness and a knife used to divide up some dish long forgotten. That its memory cannot be dredged up is testament to the mediocrity that must have clung to it. This is not surprising. Many years ago the belly was rapacious without commensurate sophistication. It ate with gusto and without much thought. "Fill me!" was its ceaseless demand. This greed carried with it a certain blindness to history, taste, and respect.

Respect. The word settles in the pit of this belly which hangs chastened and wiser now. The naive palate of the past has evolved into something much more discriminating. Discriminating, and rueful. It cannot eat as a youth anymore. Such actions verge on abuse, leaving mild regret at best and acid attacks on the gullet at worst. The belly is much more careful in the thick of middle age. It has to be. Respect is often as necessary to the act of cooking and eating as the addition of salt and curiosity.

Hunger is here. It is the wolf that sits in front of my spine as I prepare the pot of clam chowder that had entertained my thoughts most of the afternoon. Hunger for that chowder had indirectly led to my use of the baking sheet for my dinner. This because my imagination had been seized by the idea of cornbread as companion to the fruits of my labor at the pot. It was upon a rack resting on the sheet that I would turn out my cornbread after its retrieval from the depths of the oven.

I could not help but think of my blindness to respect as I consider the baking sheet in the white gold light of a early spring evening. The round of cornbread lay resting. In one hand was a serrated knife, on the counter a milk-white plate emblazoned with a large rectangle of Irish butter. My other hand tugged at my lip while the bread cooled. The canyons in the sheet stood out, highlighted by my regret at having marred this humble pan that carried with it the ghost of my grandmother. I struggled to recall why I thought those many years ago that it was okay to cut something out of that pan with a sharp knife, desecrating the pan and inflicting insult on the knife all the while.

The pan, and its twin ensconced in the cabinet by the stove, had been with me for years. Through marriage, divorce, two broken relationships, these humble sheet metal artifacts gave me a constant I did not know I had. And I had never apologized for the day that knife scraped its way across the metal.  Warm against the flat of my hand it brought my grandmother back into my heart, her shade into the kitchen. I cut the bread, careful of the rack and pan. I bowed my head as the butter phased into liquid gold. It was then, basking in the blessing of humble nourishment, that I repented, hoping my grandmother forgave me for the thoughtless youth that had been, and his callowness in the kitchen.

18 March 2018

Glass Heart Waltz

PROLOGUE: 8:57 pm. Saturday. A quiet St. Patrick's Day for this writer. Sidelined by a sore back and achy head, the revelry is in the mind. Also, fragments of the past drift to the top of the pond.

A song thought over, cruel as a frozen stiletto slipping between the ribs. The strains of it drift in on a caustic electron breeze to scour the heart. Something so intangible yet so hurtful. Where is the off switch? There is no plug to pull, no breaker to trip, but that has not stopped the attempt to do both. Fighting the inevitable invisibilities in a frantic ten rounds of shadow boxing, man , is a recipe for bleak exhaustion. There seems to be no stepping out of the ring.

To dance or to box? What is this choice that is no choice? The body a leaden meatsuit, the mind a black night cradling a box of wet matches. Sunrise over the ocean brings light to a sky colored as a fading bruise. Knowing how to feel about this is a difficult exercise. Confusion, angst, and fatigue conspire against clarity of thought. Perhaps the best that can be done is to swallow as much breakfast as would stay down, then push the body into the day in hopes of getting something done.

The heart is another matter. It is glass, crystalline and brittle. It wants to beat but cannot escape the chains of an amorphous, supercooled liquid bearing the appearance of solidity.

EPILOGUE: The waltz was scored almost exactly one month ago, in a different weather, in a different mind space. There is distance now. The space-time coordinates have changed, and hence the perspective. The ghostly breezes of those words still shift at the edges, but the mind space is clearer, brighter, it may be said. This is good. It is comforting. Progress has been made on remaining in the now. For this, the heart is grateful and becoming flesh.

11 March 2018

Dawn Creeps In

Soft footpads glide over the forgiving bed of the forest floor. Musky scent of deer and other feed on the hoof floods the flared nostrils, quickens the pulse, and commands the attention. Gold-green eyes stare along the path that glows softly in the light of a waning crescent moon, filtered through the leaves. The jaguar opens its muzzle. Its tongue curls, canines gleam. There is another scent on the wind. One the beast does not quite know what to make of it. Familiar, perhaps, but not sensed in what felt like centuries. The jaguar pauses. It feels something. It moves forward into the silvery black.

Waves hit the shore. Insistent pounding on the sand drums into the cottage. I awake with a start, my legs and arms twitching in the damp cool of the cottage. I had fallen asleep in the rocking chair adjacent to the hearth. The fire was nearly gone. The low smolder of embers glowed dully under a coating of ash. Salty woodsmoke tang hung in the gravid air. My heart beat in a ragged arrangement of jittery blood music as I shook my head clear of the phantom jaguar of which I dreamt. The air held musk, too.

Or perhaps the jaguar dreamt it was me. My jaw ached, hands and feet throbbing with a slow ache. There were scrapes on all of them. Scrapes that had not been there when I had lowered my exhausted body into the chair to watch the sundown shadows creeps down the walls of the cottage. I studied my hands in the nascent glow of the dawn light creeping over the horizon over the sea. The horizon was an indigo terminator cutting off the sky. It fluttered and rolled.

I sat up in the chair. Through casements hazed with salt I watched the muttering sea harangue the shoreline. The breakers carried with them an expectation, a prediction, that today I would have a visitor. The thought unsettled and delighted me. Had it been years since the headland bore witness to the presence of another? My heart felt it so. Rare it was to have strange footprints on the sand around the cottage.

The sky grew brighter. Standing up to stretch I felt my skin tighten where exposed by the falling blanket. Something or someone was on the way. I don’t know how I knew what I knew. I shuffled over to the kettle, setting it up to make tea. A cup or two to push back the chill, as me and the jaguar settled in to await the dawn creeping on on soft, expectant feet.

04 March 2018

Saltwater Spring

Alive, by the sea
His appetite awoken
Green waves' aroma