The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Elaine Magarrell
The Madness of Chefs
Let us now praise the madness of chefs, their exaltation
in searing heat, their need for murder, desire for stress.
How they perform with the delicate, even sublime, fingering
blood and blossom and bean. How they scatter
the sacred herbs, distill the sea to fish and salt, the sky above
to yeast and bird. They conserve the fresh killed rabbit
salvaging even its scream in their night, preserving its offal
and tripe. They cooked the last supper for Jesus,
made cakes for Marie Antoinette, fixed a final meal
for the murderer, fed Caesar and Cleo in bed. They plate
foie gras for the eyes but hope for it to be laid waste. Awash
with wine. The taste. The taste. Heavenly vapors
invade the nose. What a long way they've come since they first
scorched meat. Since the caveman fed his spitting fire.
And as fuel is shoved into the gut what a catharsis,
belly at peace, what a fullness of spirit and at the end,
a busy bowel dealing spotlessly with excrement. Let us
all praise the madness of chefs. Come to the table
beggars and queens. They're at it again.
The Peach of Immortality
Born in winter under the tree
and abandoned to live, I was startled
by blossoms. Out of the box
of sky, petals fell like flakes
of cloud. Without any warning
hard fruits formed. I sat
in the shade and leaned in idleness
against the day. Vines sprang up
to fasten me, more powerful
even than gravity. As if
it were meant, the perfect sphere
of always fell in the hammock
of my lap without a bruise on it.
I caressed its fuzz with my thumb.
One bite, I knew, and I would live
three thousand years. If I ate
the whole peach I would live
forever. But I wasn't hungry.
I didn't love you yet.
If you could see me picnicking one last time
at the crumbling table beside the park tower
you would know how I need the flavor of olives
and rough grained bread against the acid
of wine and Jack enjoying his peanut butter,
tasting the last of the chocolate-
covered ginger while the snow geese
dip their heads into the shallow water
and the fiery sun sets at five o'clock. You would
understand why I've no religion
but the ruddy duck and great white heron.
You'd see us divide the anjou pear in its perfect
ripeness and feel the chill air settle
into the hollow, watch as we zip
our sweaters with thousands of shore birds
in a quivering shifting cloud overhead
going nowhere in particular.
After an hour or two, we would pack up
the picnic with only the pear core
and a small plastic box left over.
If you could see me picnicking
one last time where the plumed reeds
sway beside the park tower
you would know everything I know.
Five mortalities sat in the dining room feasting
on shrimp. Five deaths to be finishing off
the bread pudding and exchanging photographs.
None made any noise when the hot coffee was spilled.
Only when goodnights were said did a little chill
escape the first, scrape a shoulder and stir her hair so
that she brushed it back with her hand
in a practiced gesture we would recall.
Living is like that, full of habit. We hoard
time for what needs thought. For example,
Where did I put the pickles?" "Does this dress
make me look ridiculous?" Try to imagine it. Five
mortalities living as though there is no tomorrow
and a month later every one of them still alive.
Surprise Is Dying
I see my granddaughter caught
in a photograph, happy in a blue dress.
Blue. I could have guessed.
The moon rises and sets, rises and sets.
Look in my eyes. Surprise is dying.
Although I know the words to a hundred
songs, they're not today's songs.
Not tomorrow's. Singing has come
and gone. Running has slowed
to a walk. Laughter, dimmed to a smile.
Thinking, also, says pardon me
but I am sick of this. Reason
looks out at the world like a slow
grey fish in a small bowl. Books
prefer to lie closed on the shelves.
Old thoughts scratch behind my ear:
water the orange tree, make
the bed, where are my slippers?
Eating, though, continues to give
satisfaction. A date-nut cake. A rice
dish with curry and cinnamon.
Chicken baked in a very hot oven.
I taste a second helping of crisp skin,
dip a biscuit in my wine. And after
eating, I sleep. Sleep. I never tire of it.
One Day Soon
The way each morning
you rise first, and set
my orange juice out.
The way I find the crumbs
you dropped. I dust
the bentwood rocker, scrub
your tracked in dirt.
The way you do the laundry
careful not to shrink
my shirts and run the stairs
to hang them up.
How, at the grocery, I avoid
tough crusts, remembering
The way you dig the garden
bending down for me.
The way you clip the ivy.
Carry in the garbage cans.
The way I cut your hair
around the ears where
it grows thick and shave
your neck being careful
of the mole.
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication