A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Dad poured packs of peanuts in those small Coke bottles washing all that good salt into a sugary brine and bland mush, loved chicken livers fried crisp (even the smell makes me gag), delighted in candied orange slices with the consistency of sugared plastic for dessert. He would pour out a whole jar of canned tomatoes —edible dreamcatchers floating in red soup— and relish them with peanut butter crackers. Junior was the only person in the entire world who actually loved Claxton fruitcake. Worst of all, most repulsive snack ever— those little flat cans with a key on top which he would roll back to reveal a smelly treasure: little oily sardines to lay on saltines which he would make disappear into the smile under his moustache. How does one reconcile it? Sound judgment otherwise, his brain was hardwired to change flavors from reality to some phantom or dream, into delicacies inexplicable to me, eating memories, perhaps, from another age, another place, where he was a fatherless child, his mother too sad to get out of bed. All I know is he would laugh out loud at this remembering while hating all the attention— no opportunity to defend himself or explain or qualify. As someone famously said, no one wants a poet in the family. He’s not here to forgive me place the calloused hand of absolution on my shoulder giving me permission to go work another field, plant some other seed try a new recipe. But it’s time. I am old now, too, with my own strange cravings. I have worked his garden captured his countenance kept a legend of all his accounts made a record of his days served up his plate hued the jagged field rock of his life into a smooth stone necklace I wear near my heart as I set my own table prepare a new feast.
From Some Notes You Hold by Rita Sims Quillen (Madville Publishing, 2020) Copyright 2020 Rita Sims Quillen.