When I Am in the Kitchen

I think about the past. I empty the ice-cube trays
crack crack cracking like bones, and I think
of decades of ice cubes and of John Cheever,
of Anne Sexton making cocktails, of decades
of cocktail parties, and it feels suddenly far
too lonely at my counter. Although I have on hooks
nearby the embroidered apron of my friend's
grandmother and one my mother made for me
for Christmas 30 years ago with gingham I had
coveted through my childhood. In my kitchen
I wield my great aunt's sturdy black-handled
soup ladle and spatula, and when I pull out
the drawer, like one in a morgue, I visit 
the silverware of my husband's grandparents.
We never met, but I place this in my mouth
every day and keep it polished out of duty.
In the cabinets I find my godmother's 
teapot, my mother's Cambridge glass goblets,
my mother-in-law's Franciscan plates, and here
is the cutting board my first husband parqueted
and two potholders I wove in grade school.
Oh the past is too much with me in the kitchen,
where I open the vintage metal recipe box,
robin's egg blue in its interior, to uncover
the card for Waffles, writ in my father's hand
reaching out from the grave to guide me
from the beginning, "sift and mix dry ingredients"
with his note that this makes "3 waffles in our
large pan" and around that our an unbearable
round stain—of egg yolk or melted butter?—
that once defined a world.


The road out front is all torn up and has remained that way for a long time. One day they 
tractor-pulled the trunk of a fallen tree, its roots undone by the doings. Saw crews came in 
and buzzed for days like a disturbed hive. I could not save the flowers. Pyramids of pipe plastic 
appeared overnight. Rats, unsettled, bounced across the lawns, appalling the cats. 
All's ditches, trenches, ruts and pits. A week before the phones went dead, the sand trucks 
jilted their loads, shovels clanged, someone shouted Ho! ho! ho! like an unjollied Santa. Yellow 
cones mark off the area like quarantine. Red lights flash night and day. Goodness! The whole 
country detours around us. Each morning a colony of hardhats I observe from my upstairs window, 
handkerchief held to my nose, my ears stoppered with cotton and wax. Today, they were 
burning debris and circled the fire prodding like scouts.  I regret I cannot make the ceremony, 
but clearly this is a major public project with extensive resources at its disposal and certain 
to benefit enormous numbers. It must be.  I pray the food will last and look forward to vast 
and permanent improvement.

Burning of the Three Fires

         				   (June 30, France)


I set the cookbook on fire 
by holding it close to the 
reading lamp


I began the reading lamp fire 
by holding it close
to romance


I lit the romance by 
holding it
close to the cookbook