Molly Peacock

September 5, 2015 Peacock Molly



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 the author of eight collections of poetry, including The Analyst: Poems and Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems. Her poems appear in leading literary journals such as Poetry, The Malahat Review, The Women’s Review of Books, and Plume and are anthologized in The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Former President of the Poetry Society of America and former Poet-in-Residence at the American Poets’ Corner, she is the co-founder of Poetry in Motion on New York’s subways and buses and the founder of The Best Canadian Poetry. Her latest project is Molly Peacock’s Secret Poetry Room, a creative space for first generation college students to write at Binghamton University. Recipient of fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the New York Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Canada Council on the Arts, Access Copyright Canada, the Society for Citizens and Scholars, and the Leon Levy Center for Biography, Peacock is also the author of two biographies about creativity in the lives of women artists: The Paper Garden:Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 and Flower Diary: Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door. From a binational American and Canadian family, she lives in Toronto and teaches at 92NY Roundtable in New York City.