Flour, Eggs, Milk, Baking Powder, Salt and God
O Best Beloved, tell me, if you know, why—
the world over—when that woman bending
toward the griddle, toward heat pushing through
the a.m. chill, turns up a soft brown impression
of an unshaven face surrounded by loose hair, why
does she always think it’s Jesus?
And her proud, abruptly ennobled husband agrees,
and her chattering neighbors—It’s him!
A miracle!—as if they’d know that face anywhere.
Beloved, take this instruction: don’t believe all you hear.
It could be Juan Ponce de Leon looking much
as he did when he surveyed the fresh-growing land
he’d name Pascua Florida, pointing—according
to legend—his sharp little beard toward the Waters
of Bimini, the “Fountain of Youth,” searching
not finding, but even his beard hard at work. Or—
it could be his fellow Spaniard and relation,
Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, the Marquez of Cadiz!
But if the outline of gently singed batter describes
a head with luxurious gypsy curls and the artfully
shaped beard and moustache of a man so careful
with his looks he can afford to be careless with women,
oh that’s Lindsey Buckingham! You know,
lead singer for Fleetwood Mac, just as he looked
that madcap summer in L.A. when everyone
was sleeping with everyone and getting divorced,
and all of them, John and Christine McVie,
Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, inhaling, breathing
cocaine, until it drifted from their garments
like the sprinklings of Disney fairies.
Damn, he was a handsome man.
Those pancakes don’t do him justice.
But can we blame them, the folks who trudge home
each Sunday from the market lugging bags of onions,
potatoes, slabs of meat, flour—enough for one week—
eggs. They want Mystery, who doesn’t? Sanctity.
A visitation. They want it for breakfast.
This morning, Beloved, while you lay still
asleep, the batter dreamed against the deep
cast iron griddle, against the bluing flames.
I cooked a flat cake, then a second, a third, and,
no, it was not the first one I prized, the one
with the secretive smile, nor the one after that,
whose eyes followed me around the room
as I searched for the tub of butter whip.
I enjoyed most that one on the bottom, the last
and the least, unleavened, the truly mysterious
pancake, the faceless one, with no expression at all.
Suzanne Lummis’ most recent book, Open 24 Hours, received the 2013 Blue Lynx Poetry Prize. She’s a longtime teacher for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, co-founder of The Los Angeles Poetry Festival, which produced the citywide series Night and the City: L.A. Noir in Poetry, Fiction and Film, and the 2015 recipient of Beyond Baroque’s George Drury Smith Outstanding Achievement in Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, The Hudson Review, The New Ohio Review, Ploughshares and The New Yorker. She edited the new anthology Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Pacific Coast Poetry Series/Beyond Baroque Books). And she’s a member of the serio-comic performance trio Nearly Fatal Women.