36. Merna Hecht--Kitchen Confidential

36. Merna Hecht--Kitchen Confidential


Steam curls itself into my kitchen windows,

dampens and sugars the air,

the canning vat volcanic,

I know this rhythm,

bubbling heat,

the importance of timing,

the five minutes needed

to process fruit at sea level.

 

You will fare well in my kitchen,

where a cornmeal dumpling

with freshly picked blueberries

puckered beneath golden crust

surprises you with cardamom,

lime, and cassis,

guarded recipes

for keeping the hungry mouth

of the world’s pain

on the other side

of the kitchen door,

 

yet when my timer rings

I know a different device for keeping time

is calibrated to the minute’s explosion,

and in a kitchen

halfway across the world

another woman’s spices and hopes

are ground down to nothing.

 

It takes a cornmeal dumpling 20 minutes

at 375 degrees, blast of warmth

in my face, leaning into the oven,

while a car bomb,

with incinerating heat

closes in on open stalls,

takes the hands

that held a market basket

while reaching for olives.

 

Not long ago,

in a room I rarely visit,

where a pen lays

to rest on a small desk,

as if napping with me

between teaching children

and taking in a secret fragrance

that steeps like tea bags

in my stirred up kitchen,

I thought about entering

a War Poetry contest,

the rules said,

“no poems about dead

children,” still they die

and they die.

 

Why not get lost in what we love,

the world hurts us anyway,

how else to provide

a feathered taste of sweetness,  

but allow a morning’s work

of preserving

to shine through glass jars 

like the round eyes

of my third graders,

this pinch of inviolate joy,

while I know the ingredients

for violence, that haunt the world,

are without measure.

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