Priscilla Frake

This is the place
where everything accumulates:
soot from the absent hearth,
splashes of blood and vanilla,
old grievance, carrot shavings,
a sheen of oil. Grime
has settled in the grout
on the path to the pantry.
Devotional handprints cluster
near the handles of fridge and stove.
A steam of words condenses
on the glass.

You are what you eat.
No. You are what your mother
feeds you: spinach and heart
or fruit and knowledge
or cake and resentment,
or crumbs of grudging attention.

My daughters gather round
the island. Here, I say,
and tell them a story
in dough or snow peas
or blackberry cobbler.
They listen with their hands
cutting the dough into stars and hearts.

The ghosts of meals are sealed
into the woodwork. If fate
could be distilled into an odor,
it would live here under the skin
of the cabinets. It would rise to greet
whoever walks in the door. It would linger
in their clothes: charred, fried, broiled,
chopped, served. This the place
an apple might be handed round,
from Eve to Adam to us. And where
we would be called to account for it.

At the table, the day is told
and digested. If anyone leaves
the table hungry, this
is the zero-ground of hunger.
If there are explosions,
the fuse was here
until it burned to ash.
The counter is an altar,
and I, who blunder
among pots and knives,
and sometimes spice the stew
with rage, must clarify stock
and mince my words.
Each day I choose the daily bread.

Poems used with permission of the authors, and may not be re-used without their permission.