rhetorician

Gastronomica

Gastronomica

Communion

Poem | published in Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. Volume 13, Issue 3. University of California Press.

 

No one on this bus is wondering what the Big Dipper has to say about McNuggets. What they can’t see, they know by smell: that underneath one great blue plastic seat two greasy stains are blooming through a crumpled paper sack. One passenger supposes it could be McDonald’s. The others are sure of it. Yellow, they smell. Fries, still warm. It’s a bus and so no one can apologize for smells here, and so smells become transcendent, meaning: they hang but do not happen, are but do not occur. Near the back a passenger touches with her knuckle the cool dark window. She considers the stinging scent, or the good mother she’d have been. A rider in wrinkle-resistant khakis remembers skipping lunch. He believes survival is a violent, salty pleasure, and he feels invited. Another imagines a formula for predicting the rate of a stain’s expansion. If you know viscosity, if you know for sure the kind of paper, well then it’s easy. And if you know this route and can count up all the strangers, you can work out the approximate number of stops before the two stains meet and become one big stain, a.k.a., the only crisis this bag was built to endure. The fries will be almost limp and translucent-ish by then, and the bag, whose native tongue is crunches and creases, will speak in softer slouching sounds about the stain that has consumed it, about the new normal, about elemental oil and steam, about the important work of holding it all together. The formula’s limit is it does not work on passengers: no two will ever meet and become one big passenger. But still they must all try hard to contain whatever was hot and golden and given to them to carry.

 

Ina & Friends

Poem | published in Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and CultureVolume 13, Issue 2. University of California Press.

 

A six-year-old cancer patient’s Make-A-Wish dream was to cook with television chef Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. Twice his request was denied. His backup wish was to swim with dolphins. The following is a fantasy inspired by news reports.


How did it start?

Dinosaurs

are no more likely

to sing the alphabet

than I am to grow up

and become a firefighter.

Chemo ain’t the only thing

that makes me want to vomit.

So I tuned out

the kids show crap

and found in Ina what

leukemia found in me—

an angel with a chance

to be a hero.

 

And you fell in love?

With her thirty-minute miracles.

With making it look easy.

With raising chickens

from the dead.

With kisses on each cheek

from beautifully useless men

bringing flowers

when nobody’s sick.

 

What did you learn?

To break an egg

is to make a promise.

And always Parmesan

should be grated fresh.

Mom buys the green-can

cheap stuff, cause it lasts forever.

Mom doesn’t think

like a dying child.

And when they pump the fluid

with a baster

into my spine,

they’re only adding flavor.

 

And Ina turned you down?

But I waited. Three more years.

Half my life.

 

And she turned you down again?

She had to.

Ina makes magic

by moving effortlessly.

And I am complication.

To meet me would undo her,

I could never get my wish.

 

This made headlines?

But they missed the point.

Cancer Kid Gives Contessa

Case of PR Pox?

Doesn’t matter what she said,

what matters is: I asked.

My mother knows

I see through things

and all my dreams are sage,

so it’s good the world

should learn my wish

and understand its failing.

 

Any words for the Contessa now?

Ina, forgive me.

I was very young.

I’ll be waiting

in the ocean.