Four Kitchens in the State


Eric Gansworth

While we visit Bill's mother, 89,
living independently in a senior efficiency
complex, her lunch is delivered
by Meals on Wheels and Bill takes it
into her small kitchen, ignoring her
declining his offer, cutting
the entreé into manageable sizes
and after she, laughing, warns him
not to steal any of her
ham, she smiles at me and out of his
hearing range, whispers that he needs
to be a good person, a fact
I have known from the first
time we had talked.

After introducing his sister, the flesh
of her hands damp and vivid
yet unblemished by the acids
of potatoes she blinds
in her neat kitchen, Bill guides me
through the cemetery of his family's
town and there, points to a petite
stone that I think is one
the woman we have just seen
has planted for herself, the single year
adorning it, begging for a completion
I can not imagine
anyone planning for

They weren't expected
to survive, he says,
arriving early in the middle
of the depression delivered
to a family who could not afford
their futures, or even professional
care for their entrances, he continues,
telling me of the way
his two aunts took turns coaxing
the babies carefully
keeping them warm inside
the old kitchen's wood burning oven
two delicate loaves of bread
rising and falling in the drafty house
but only one remained in this world
as the central Texas sun filled the room
in the winter morning and only then
do I realize the woman
I'd just met had, in the middle
of the night she was born, lost
her twin sister as the moon slowly
finished its lonely arc that first night.

In his kitchen, as I ask after
the ridiculous condiment sandwiches
that seem to be a mainstay
of his diet, vegetable and bread
concoctions of the sort I had grown
used to when the month outlasted
the money back home, when I was
a child and had never even dreamed
a place called Texas existed, we sit
in the growing dark and movement
of a sandstorm blowing across the prairie,
and finally they speak.
Bill and his wife Carole tell me
as we disappear in the shadows
of the day he died for a moment
of how professional care
he could now afford
stood clear and brought him
back with a charge just
this side of the electric chair
and pierced his stubborn and silent chest
then called his wife in pretending
it is natural for hernia patients to code blue
in recovery, but the look
they now share across
the counter in front of me
tells me the truth
of the moment, the fortune
I have been afforded
in finding this new home
so many thousands of miles
from my own.

© 2001 Eric Gansworth

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