Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pantry Chef

When I was younger,
I washed lettuce heads in cold water.
I would set them on my cutting board, gently,
As if my hands hummed with lullabies.

I lifted tomatoes from their cardboard carton beds.
I lined them in a row like nursery babies,
And my starched jacket was always white and clean.

I knew romaine and bibb,
Beefsteak and cherry.
I kept my hair tied back, my nails short,
The right knife sharp and at the ready.

I didn't know, then
That lovers remember the wine, not the greens;
The sugar, not the side plate.

I wish you were here to kiss my hands
With their swollen knuckles and cut-scars.
What was I doing with my tenderness
When I had someone who wanted it?

When I was younger,
I had a paying job, a small talent,
And a driver with a dolly at the back door
Coming every day to keep my walk-in cooler stocked.

I thought that was bounty.
I thought there was no harm in staying on through another fall.
I never considered that what I made was not mine,
Or that someone else was paying for it all.
_______ 

15 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

'my hands hummed with lullabies' - what a great line. even salads can be art and worthy of pride and satisfaction. :)

Far Beyond The Ridge said...

it's gonna take awhile for this to fully ripen in me. I was younger, too, and i was the boy on the dolly keeping the cooler stocked. And i remember the girls in the kitchen. now it all seems different than it did way back then. I know that's not really what you're writing about, but then, me neither.
Thanks for the memories
rick

HermanTurnip said...

I used to wash dishes in high school so I could earn lunch from the cafeteria. Lemme tell ya, it's way difficult to slice your wrists with plastic utensils.

cloudia charters said...

"As if my hands hummed with lullabies."

Such talent; soul.


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Sioux said...

This is gorgeous and aching in its simplicity.

Shay, you really cooked up a sumptuous dish tonight.

hedgewitch said...

You are making a knife slice through more than letuce here, through layers of experience and the heart. The structure is perfect; a controlled, detailed, narrative followed by such intense emotion, like the soft red tomatoes full of juice nestled in their dry, transitory, tasteless cardboard sleeves--it knocks the reader back ten feet and is like that moment where everything is supposed to flash before your eyes before you die.

Yeesh.

*rubs bald pate* I look rather well with a shaved head, fortunately, but the stubble is a bitch...

Mama Zen said...

This made me cry. Now, why did you have to go and do that?

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This does leave an ache. We do have so much to give, so many of us, and not always somewhere to give it. Your closing lines hit my heart especially. Whew! Terrific writing. As only you can do it.

ayala said...

This is gorgeous!

Kerry O'Connor said...

What went wrong?

These thoughts carry the bewilderment of the individual face with an unalterable present tense, not at all sure when her relationship became a thing of the past.

Lolamouse said...

This made me cry too! Damn you!

RMP said...

I love the description--the delicate way you handled the lettuce and the tomatoes. and then the contract with the hands. really beautiful...and quite sad.

Isadora Gruye said...

what I liked best here was the transition of tenderness, from the chef herself caring for secondary greens to last stanzas which show an absence of care for the chef herself.

lovers care about the wine, and what do you do when you are not a main course but a side dish of a human being.

your style remains as always, controlled and yet unbound. That's a difficult balance, but you always bring me a place I thought I was going but would not have gone unless dared.....

myheartslovesongs.com said...

"Or that someone else was paying for it all."

great final line! a sad poem, though i do find it sexy when someone talks about preparing food. {smile}

flipside records said...

Love this line: "As if my hands hummed with lullabies." And this: "I lined them in a row like nursery babies."

"That lovers remember the wine, not the greens;
The sugar, not the side plate" ... Sad but true.

What a great little hyphenated word: "cut-scars"

"I thought there was no harm in staying on through another fall" ... One fall can turn into many, many falls. I like the possible double (or triple) meaning in "fall" here.

This is like being a wife and mother---running a kitchen (restauraunt). Funny how in family, friendship, love, or whatever, you think you're being your best giving exactly what someone needs. But really, they want wine and you're offering salad. They want dessert, and you give peas. Most of all, I guess everyone just wants kindness and a gentle spirit. But we all have our own agendas, our own lists of what's most important and what we want to accomplish.

Those last two lines are weighty and could mean a number of things. But it certainly feels like you are left empty-handed, and perhaps owing something when you really have nothing left to give.