In a kitchen
I am the absence
When I cook eggs
I part the eggs
on the side of the pan
and fill the pan
We all have our reasons
for cooking eggs.
I cook eggs to watch them part
on the side of the pan,
brown around the edges.
They have their reasons.
I have my seasoning.
The season has come slowly
to the North. To the south the sun
festers in its white bowl,
an eye myopic or, better, blind.
Friends from Boston have arrived.
Already cookbooks flutter in the hands
like dumb birds.
Sitting by the easy fire
for which none of us has chopped a single log,
we are the absence of fire,
an abscess in the raw jaw-bone of the house.
Two will catch my cold.
Another will lose in Trivial Pursuit
and return home, homeward,
inwardly, toward a Rome of his imaginings
where saffron salts the streets
and mares gallop out of their nimbuses.
For now we create crème brûlée.
We are rich with metaphor.
The house contracts slightly.
Cream and milk simmer.
We break the eggs into a bowl
after separating yolk from white
and whisk with sugar—such tinny, whisking sounds
you’d think a new mosquito hatch had prematurely bloomed,
or a snowblower had caught a sheet of sleet or slush
and rushed itself ahead into a bank outside somewhere.
And in the kitchen
we are the absence
Yes, of course the house contracts.
The kitchen contracts.
The crème brûlée sets up,
which is a form of contraction.
We have been eating a lot of eggs,
one friend says to me.
I have not.
I say because six out of the last dozen eggs I bought were double-yolked
I am now fearful of eggs.
Because no one keeps a two-yolk egg whole.
Because a two-yolk egg blurs the edges of unity:
one perfect shell for one perfect egg for which there must be one and only
Because the yolk inside its white is not the egg but the shadow of the egg in
Because the practice of feeding chickens turmeric to color the yolk is something I
have only read about.
Because the turmeric I bought for blending homemade curry made me sneeze,
and when I sneeze I think of death and my mother, her stories of watching
her mother ring a chicken’s neck, and chop the head clean off, the headless
body running its course, the bodiless head coursing, the semi-bloodless
ethics of Midwest respectable poverty, back in the day, as if this day, today,
is not a day, but the double-yolk in a thousand thousand dozen eggs, and my
one recurring nightmare as a child was a warehouse full of nondescript
white packages I was forced to count and count, and counting would not
ever end, and the lady who sold me the turmeric weighed it and said, I’ve
never seen somebody buy this much, and she looked like my grandmother
in the hands, I don’t know how to count this much, she said, and Boston
may as well have been Baghdad or, further back, Ur, and I may as well be
Abraham or, further back, Ibrahim, because I cannot begin to tell my Boston
friends what I know, what I’ve seen on this wholly holy pilgrimage I’ve
stumbled into like the frying pan of God.
I contract the kitchen.
Heat from tiny fires is pleasant, hardly
visible, hard and tinny on my skinny legs.
The eggs, my minions, are no longer whole.
There is a hole in the refrigerator
where the crème brûlée once was.
For now we are sprinkling sugar
on the top of eight ramekins,
denizens of the crème brûlée we ourselves desired
and of which we are the opposite
or the absence.
We search for butane for the torch
and unkitchen it.
Torch and kitchen part.
These friends of mine from Boston,
even now his beard is growing out:
to give me more time, he says,
as if time were an extension of the body.
My acupuncture classes are near complete, she says,
having scared me with the fact
some needles travel their own pilgrimages,
the body holier full of tiny holes.
These friends of mine love the torch:
the feel, the thickness of a chicken neck,
the heft and quiet of a respect for fire.
Here, I say,
This is excess sugar.
It is like desert sand.
God of Abraham,
it will turn to glass.