Lilah Hegnauer is the author of Dark Under Kignada Stars (Ausable Press 2005). She teaches in the English Department at James Madison University
Mortar & Pestle
Those tufted ears,
latticed by a chain
of speckle and filament:
barn door, owl, kitchen
window, ourselves. We pocked
time into a thousand
episodic dinners: cardamom
and bee balm, vanilla—
here's to marking them
against a future blight,
alba withering in the
side yard, barn gone stale,
and me: childminder, cake,
nightjar, potato, potato,
suckle and spit, egg and tomato.
What came before
this fondant, boreal,
these housed, orectic
mouthed and punctual,
and affixedbut him:
swift little orecchiette
on the cutting board,
tenderizing the abalone,
spoon, fever, & shell.
With thee, in the Desert—
With thee in the thirst—
Milkfish in the laundered night,
swept bare, these boards, listel
and lather, rugs upended in the slim
antechamber—barrow of pine
split small, your parka and boots
still dripping on the bricks.
And you, inside: once, I felt
a joy that was as old as a two
knees knocking, as a woodstove
ticking hot, as its stovepipe
about to ignite. Once I entered
a room on fire to read. If it is time,
anchor your heart and pack it
in your impossible cavity, lung,
lung, ribs, and veins. And keep the
kettle hot for me, and limber up.
Novel heirlooms—lister, joist—
I could be wrong and glad.
Appallingly awkward, maybe I grasp
at everything. Our gathering, our coming
and going, burrowing our chestnuts
and nesting our scraps of twine:
maybe we will continue. Snow might
go on, despair might bring ease,
and I will believe something beyond
this body, this room, these cells you claim.
But if I'm right, and this failing,
heating, damned world and self
is our terminus, maybe I can know—
at least—infinity here, a piecrust so
flaky you could cry, an apple so small
and purple you could scalp it and dry it
for a mezuzah. The span of us only
this wide, on the verge of wrong.
Long might this sky be familiar, embodied, fossae
and palm, and cinched the apron as a spigot
to heat me, rinsing and drying the berries
I handle and mash. Long the bulb
of these wires itself was a handbook: stiff,
peaked, wet and dry. Unready, too, tightly
pleated, coveting the hidden fold; the kit
of mink, the stolid wheat, the air of wholly
unremarkable noons and their sandwiches,
clumsy, homely, arctic, mine. I am a
maiden oven; watch me torch meringues.
Long this calibration might nimble me yours.