a poetry e-zine

 

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Azar Blanca

Leftovers

I.

 

My mother told me before I went off to college

that she’d miss the way I picked things out of my food--

that childish reflex to cleanse my meals of sliced cucumbers, mushrooms, tomatoes. My father,

who in most other respects is a very

open-minded man, does not like onions,

which is why no one tells him that his mother-in-law’s

new recipe for his favorite hamburgers includes onions,

chopped ever so finely, as to avoid detection.

My pickiness was learned, at an early age,

from my parents, who, only a few years older than I am now,

had not cast off the quirks of their youth

in little paper boats at the banks and shoals of adulthood.

They never quite learned how to lie to their children

about the deliciousness of baby corn or cauliflower.

My grandfather never made dinner,

but he used to offer his snacks to my brothers and me:

sliced mango from his tree, dried cuttlefish

--which tastes like fishy shoelaces--,

and boiled peanuts.

This was his way of saying

I love you and now I love

boiled peanuts.

He is not around to eat my pickles anymore.

There are so many more pickles now than there ever were.

His peanuts were not

even so much about the eating

as the offering, the half-eaten bento box

on my grandfather’s grave that says

one for you, one for me.

 

II.

 

I never learned to eat quickly,

clean my plate, or finish the last sip of milk.

When I was young, meals were slow, cautious affairs,

sorting through the chaos of someone else’s creation.

When I studied abroad in England,

the cafeteria made the food wrong:

yams in the potato salad,

ham as bacon, and no one deboned the fish.

It was a vegetarian I dated for a while

who told me that adults are people who eat things

they don’t like.

She never ate my olives.

Olives are good for you, she said.

I tried to take that to heart,

chewed tofu, kale, and quinoa,

soaked tomatoes in ketchup to hide the taste.

I can’t help but think she was wrong--

that adulthood is about more than voluntary submission

and knowing how to eat lentils.

An old love used to eat my olives,

accepted them like a crossroads god.

She slid them off my plate, as if they were

an ancient offering

of twine and figs and robin’s eggshells.

I wouldn’t have traded that gesture for

anything but for ever.

Someone had transmuted my foolishness,

found a way to savor Midas’s apples.

 

 

 

 

On Formulaic Epithets and Falling In Love While Reading Book 24 of the Iliad

 

I learned tonight while reading Andromache's last speech

that the Greeks could have heard an entendre in the phrase

‘common as the rising and setting of the sun’--their lips

would have glitched on the word "exhumation,"

as we dig up yesterday's stars,

alive again or at least not dead.

We are in love for the first time and we are meeting.

It is a beginning that has happened many times before,

as common and tired a thing as the ‘well-greaved Achaeans,’

‘swift-footed Achilles,’ and 'rosy-fingered Dawn'.

I think of Andromache's love, deeper than a well-dug grave,
at the end of all things, at our beginning,

and the ways I wish to die, some Elizabethan pun,
resurrecting this noble corpse our love.

 

Azar Blanca is a student and writer in California. Azar went to school on the East Coast at Middlebury College and right now is abroad collecting stories for a new project that he’s working on for radio. Azar spends a lot of time reading books to understand other books and writes about that experience.

Copyright 2014  Chantarelle's Notebook