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 embrace one more meal.
This poem appeared in the Paterson Literary Review June 2021