Why I Can't Cook for Your Self-Centered Architect Cousin
Because to me a dinner table's like a bed--
without love, it's all appetite and stains. Let's buy
take-out for your cousin, or order pizza--his toppings--
but I can't lift a spatula to serve him what I am.
Instead, invite our favorite misfits over: I'll feed
shaggy Otis, who after filet mignon, raised his plate
and sipped merlot sauce with such pleasure
my ego pardoned his manners. Or I'll call Mimi,
the chubby librarian, who paused over tiramisu--
"I haven't felt so satisfied since..." then cried
into its curls of chocolate. Or Randolph might stop by,
who once, celebrating his break-up with the vegetarian,
so packed the purse seine of his wiry body with shrimp
he unbuttoned his jeans and spent the evening
couched, "waiting for the swelling to go down."
Or maybe I'll cook for us. I'll crush the pine nuts
unhinged from the cones prickly shingles.
I'll whittle the parmesan, and if I grate a knuckle
it's just more of me in my cooking. I'll disrobe
garlic cloves of rosy sheaths, thresh the basil
till moist and liberate the oil. Then I'll dance
that green joy through the fettucine, a tumbling,
leggy dishy we'll imitate, after dessert.
If my embrace detects the five pounds you win
each year, you will merely seem a generous
portion. And if you bring my hand to your lips
and smell the garlic that lingers, that scents
the sweat you lick from the hollows of my clavicles,
you're tasting the reason that I can't cook
for your cousin--my saucy, my strongly seasoned love.
--Beth Ann Fennelly