Friday, August 27, 2010

Michael Akillian: Her Kitchen

Such a meticulous child,
it wasn't always easy for me
to watch my grandmother cook.
She used her hands for measuring cups,
her fingers as tablespoons.
Close enough, she'd say
while she worked over the pots and cauldrons
that steamed with fasoolya, pohrov kufta,
dolma... She used garlic when she was happy,
and she was happy often.

She baked a lot, too.
Whenever I'd come over she'd stuff 
flour-fingered walnuts in my mouth
and talk while I couldn't.
Like so many old-country cooks
she cleaned her kitchen through use.
The corners and back cupboards lay kittied
and abandoned, while the working parts
were wiped at least daily.

I gauged her aging
by the slow encroachment upon her kitchen.
I watched her slow, stoop, and finally sit
in her green and stainless wheelchair.
The time I discovered her at the stove fenced
in an aluminum walker, I stole
down the long empty hall of her deafness,
and out.

When she died,
the only part of her kitchen that was clean
was the right-front burner on her gas stove.
While my uncles worked in other rooms, 
my father and I took the kitchen -- 
two pools of cleanliness spreading outward.
We stopped as the people began to arrive.
That'll have to do, my father said, sliding
the damp dish towel from his shoulder.
Close enough, I thought, and left
for the living and the mourners.

This poem is part of the volume entitled "The Eating of Names", published by Ashod Press, 1983. It is reprinted here by kind permission of the author. 

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