ENFORCED SILENCE

The city is a ghost town,
the ghosts peering warily
from windows they now
wish they had taken
the time to have cleaned,
and now there is time
and no one to clean.

They fear the silence,
cannot fathom the smell
of the air, something
faintly like a cool morning
from their suburban childhoods.

They have found pots,
pans cast aside or used
for any purpose other
than cooking, and food
created by their hands,
from mother’s recipes recalled
has now appeared.

They want the noise,
the odors, the cheap
take-out places and fine
restaurants back, their
lives, but pause and are
thankful they are still
here and able to want.

First Published in Adversity, Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

COOKBOOK

As a youngster I thought I had
convinced my grandmother
to one day entrust me with
the old family recipes, since
my mother wanted little to do
with the kitchen and less with
anything that came from “there.”

It was a bit of a shock to learn
years later that grandma was
born in London, that her mother
shared my mother’s dislike
for the kitchen and both favored
take out whenever possible.

She did finally share her specialties
which I carefully wrote down
for posterity, only to discover
that someone in the family
was named Betty Crocker.

CULINARIA

My repertoire was so much wider then
for that is the mis-appreciated burden of youth.
My bookshelves groaned under the weight
of a couple of hundred cookbooks, tomes focused
on the apple, fish, chicken, or on isolated corners
of what seemed to me to be an infinitely large world.
Azeri food seemed a continent apart from Persian,
never mind the neighborhood connections.
I recall the endless hours spent
pounding veal as Escoffier demanded,
and when all else failed, a decent cut of beef
swaddled in a compound butter sauce, Bearnaise, or Choron.
I don’t know if culinary wisdom comes with age,
but the demands of an aging body, carefully listened to,
calls for the seismic shift, and if allowed
a casting aside of marbled beef, paper thin veal,
marbled end papers, pages of instructions.
I don’t recall what moment to lead to epiphany,
the giving away of salmon, taking up tofu
and the joy of creating, not re-creating, of paying
homage to cuisine, no longer being its slave.

WRISTING

I used to think
that the key to a great crepe
was all in the wrist.
That was before my wrist was fused
by a doctor who explained
that no motion was better
than endless pain where motion
ceased to practically matter.
Now I realize that the forearm
is capable of so much more
that that for which it is given
credit, that the elbow is a joint
underappreciated, and that when
the crepe slides off the pan
and onto the plate,
the forearm can take a silent bow,
giving a wink to the crepe pan
for its nominal contribution
to the effort lying on the plate.

UNLOCKING

There are two keys to it, really
the first, and easier, is to make a well
with your hands, that would need be
not all that deep, just enough
to hold your thoughts as you work.
The second is to add just
the right amount, too little and
it is dry and doesn’t hold
together, too much and it will
refuse to obey your command.
Dust it well, and constantly
as you work, that is
the third key, but we don’t call it
a key, for there should
only be two keys to everything.
And finally, no matter how long
you think it will take, it will
never take that long,
always longer or shorter,
never that long, but
when you are done, you
must savor it while looking
for those thoughts you left
in the now transmuted well
of the making of your hands.