Tutti a Tavola!

After the chemo

all you want to do is watch cooking shows.

We bask before the television

as before an oven on a cold day

watching Lidia toss onions into a pan of glittering olive oil.

Our noses strain to smell her pot of marinara simmering

as we drift to another kitchen far away,

Grandma in tennis shoes and a ruffled apron

layering slices of fried zucchini with sauce and parmesan.

Your taste buds these days have turned.

Ziti tastes like wood chips;

pizza like a paper bag.

Still, like a child you savor the sight of food

watching pizza commercials

eyes wide as pepperoni as you lament,

“Just look at that dripping cheese!”

Kale smoothies be damned,

we chase away the pain of the present

by recalling meals of the past

chanting recipes like prayers:

Shrimp Scampi with shallots and butter,

Veal Parmesan with marinara,

Pasta Fagioli with garlic and cannelloni beans,

and suddenly, with a pinch of basil,

a table springs up before us,

Great grandmother’s silver set beside

the gold-rimmed china with pink flowers.

So absorbed are we in culinary magic

that when Lidia announces her meal is finished

and calls to TV viewers

“Tutti a tavola! Come to the table!”

we are not surprised to see

our own ghosts of the hearth

creeping in from the room’s dark corners:

Great Grandma Anna and her sisters,

Uncle Tony, Louie, Nicodemo,

Fred and Laurel.

Smiling, they take their seats

and pick up their forks,

ready to taste,

to savor,

to embrace one more meal.

This poem appeared in the Paterson Literary Review June 2021

Things Lost, Things Found

We sat together on the couch that day
and didn’t speak of all you’d lost,
of the car you crashed in the grocery store parking lot weeks before,
the job you could no longer work,
the cancer that moved like a thief through your body,

stealing your bones, your breath, your blood.
We didn’t speak of the shadow of death,
the Psalm you read me as a child,
“Yay though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…”

We did not speak of fear,
but of small things that flickered
like birds across the TV screen.
After weeks on the couch,
you’d assembled yourself a kingdom,

Sour Patch Kids stashed in the table drawer,
remote planted beside your knee,
issues of Coin World within arm’s reach.
You’d grabbed one and thumbed through,
stopping at an ad for a Buffalo nickel.

“I need this one!” you said,
the shadowy valleys of your eyes filling with light.
Disappearing into the next room
you wrote a check and called the seller,
chatting for a few moments

as though the world weren’t ending,
as though you weren’t leaving it.

Returning to the couch,
your face beamed.
“What luck!” you said.
“I’ve been searching for that coin for years
and there it was,
there it was.”

            This poem first appeared on Poets Online, July 2020