From The Takeaway Bin
The Takeaway Bin
Take away the elements in order of apparent nonimportance
Toss out any crummy little ax to grind. The wood's chopped. You have enough for the long cold winter ahead. Take away what you planned to do today; trim your nails, build a seesaw, sweep the ocean floor. It's less important to get the worm than to have one last frame of the dream; you were climbing a mountain. At the summit was a cafe called Happiness. Inside, in a glowing golden room, people were, yes, happy, quietly sipping their cups of tea. It wasn't important who did what to whom, yesterday's knife in the back. The blade wasn't sharp, your wit less so. Before she takes your order the waitress points out the daily specials on the blackboard, then tells you to leave what you don't need by the door. In the takeaway bin. Your worries. Fears. The go go boots that never fit. The knitted scarves received as gifts, veils over your eyes she says. Take away the elements of your unhappiness, then the elements themselves, five, when we last counted or was it four? Fire, water, earth, oh, air it out. She hands you a cup of tea. "Now, you're ready," she says. "Get out of bed. The day lies before you, clean as a slate. It's yours to write on.
From Pink Harvest
The Prize Inside
The recipe went something like this: Get a fish; snapper or ling cod, mackerel or halibut, an everyday fish, a regular fish, not a special fish, not albacore or swordfish or salmon, too fancy for this common dish. Put the fish in a soup pot, cover with water, let it come to a slow boil, like your motherís slow boil as she waits for your fatherís fishing boat to come in, for his ship to come in, for him to make good on his promise to fix the leaky gutters this time heís in port. Cook until the juices of the fish are released, then simmer. The simmering goes on for minutes or hours or days, for weeks or months or years, fish is simmering on the stove forever, from cradle to grave, the fish simmers and simmers and at some point is done.
Lift the fish out to place it on a platter. As you lift the meat falls away from the bones, millions of bones, the ribs, the spine, the long bones, the short, the flat bones, the small bones around the cheeks, like lacework, the intricate system of delicate, delicate bones, and now the need to pray to St. Blaise, patron saint of things caught down the wrong pipe, and now the need to go to church and have the priest draw two white candles across your neck and bless your throat, so the bones wonít get caught and choke you to death. And once blessed, tell me, your mother will say, how can you swear like you do, like your father swears, how can you say jebem, fuck, so easily that foul language rolls off your tongue.
What remains in the pot is fish stock, golden broth, that can cure all, a sore throat, a sore life, a salty cure, and now add potatoes, cubed, or rice and peas like the Italians, reeezi beeezi, thatís what you say, and simmer until the rice is cooked and puffed up, and the air again smells salt sweet, perfumed by the sea.
Place the platter on the dinner table, on display. You listen, with your sisters on either side, while your father talks about the other Slavs, about the lack of money, lack of fish, about whose getting screwed, jebem, jebem, jebem. Hear your mother slip in something about the weather, the forecast for rain, the gutter. See your father gaze out the window at the horizon, just outside, calling him, though heís only been in port one day. Today in school you learned about Christopher Columbus. Did he too have the same look standing at the helm, on the lookout for the New World? You play around with whatís left of your meal, why does it take them so long to eat, and finish everything on your plate, sheíll say, and then you sit. And then you wait.
On the platter all that is left are the bones, the backbone like the one you see in the cartoons, where the cartoon cat tips over the trash can in the alley and pulls out the fish spine, only the head and tail intact. Thereís no escaping the face, the open mouth, the eye looking upwards, towards heaven or the ceiling light, it was living and now itís dead, and you focus in on the white eye, like the pupil-less eyes of the zombies you saw in the science fiction film, Night of The Living Dead, zombies who looked just like regular towns people the day before--the mailman, the neighbor, the school nurse--then the next day were walking with their arms stretched out in front of them, coming to claim you, coming your way. You look at the eye, covet it, think to yourself, itís not a crime, whatís about to happen next: the fish no longer uses its eyes to evade the net, the hook, to see whatever it is a fish sees. The fish is blind to what will happen next, the soul already gone, as we are blind to what will happen, tomorrow, the next day and the next, blind to what lies just around the bend.
And now the arguing, the fight every time, who gets the prize and who got it last, and you always get your way and youíre a lying cheat, for the fish has only two eyes and there are three daughters and someone will be left out. Someone always gets left out.
But tonight Iím the lucky one. Tonight I get an eye.
When I put the eye in my mouth it tastes salty and fishy and good, and when I chew itís a little chalky (remember, she says, donít tell your friends at school about the eyes). I chew and chew, itís not the taste I covet, itís the prize inside the eye, inside where we cannot see. When the white is gone, there it is, the clear round center as tiny as a small glass bead. If you hold it up and look closely itís like looking inside a clear globe and there youíll find a sea and sky, and there, I spy a boat, and there, a sea full of fish, and in this world the sea is always calm and the sky is always clear, and if I could vault this life, into the world inside the eye, my vision would expand, I could see into the future, I could see beyond the kitchen table, beyond the house, to the world past this life.
And whatís that out there, Captain, just around the bend? And whatís that out there, Christopher Columbus, just beyond the horizonís edge?