Molly Peacock

Gusto
September 5, 2015 Peacock Molly

Gusto

 

Skin the asparagus for their lives,
whip the eggs, parmesan and chives…

…miming your zest with my zeal.
Once, we shared a restaurant meal

with gusto!  Decades ago.  
Now I prepare this food with gusto:

slice the baby potatoes, skins on;
turn to the smooth black surface on

my stove where two steamers—enamel—
swim like red fish painted on enamel;

and prepare with attention, like you,
my intimate witness, like you

who will never speak to me again
whom I will never see again,

hearing from your friend who tried
when you said, Let me die,

I want to die, to help you.
How horrible they got you

to the Emergency Room on time,
hemorrhaging in the brain,

a malformation that had lain
in wait 77 years for you, supine,

slumped in your watercolor class.
With gusto I put the mustard and parsley sauce

on the perfectly steamed potatoes
and watch over them, keeping on my toes—

as you watched over me.
You were only forty

when you took me on.
Thirty-seven years!  The stove is on.

The stove is a painting
from which the omelet leaps, and fainting,

folds in three on the plate
where sliced strawberry fins await.

And it was red food you ate
with gusto at the ristorante

when I took a break from therapy
thinking I was done.  Free.

Marinara sauce, you sensualist,
red on the imprinted hint

of lipstick left on your lips, red.
Your dark brows swam across your forehead

as you watched me with a pure gaze,
and I watched back from the haze

of confusion—patient? or not.
Our new distance.  The stove’s still hot.

It was as if you’d painted my cranium
as a fishbowl, where my ideas swam.

Though my thoughts misfired for me,
you painted me a copy of their beauty.

With attention now, I eat my food all
alone, taking care of myself, recalling

the words of your friend who brought
your clothes to the hospital.  Fraught:

“She can’t say the names of her sons,
though she can still feed herself.”  Undone.

But you eat, your friend tells me, with gusto.
“Hospital food?”  I say in shock.  “Oh,

I sneak her lattes.”  All you can hazard
makes life into this blizzard,

a painting of white on white
—humble, the new appetite.

Pain?  “No,” your friend says, “not in pain.”
White with a quick espresso stain.

Molly Peacock is a widely anthologized poet and biographer.  Co-creator of Poetry in Motion on New York City’s buses and subways, her latest collection of poems is The Analyst (W.W. Norton).  A Leon Levy Fellow, she is the author of the biography The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 and is now at work on The Flower Diary of Mary Hiester Reid:  the Art of Matrimony.