I have been writing for the month of July at a beach house that is decorated in the original decor of the 50's. I could not help but think of the history that a kitchen table has seen, felt, and fed. Between swimming and cooking for my family, I wrote a poem for the past living in the present.
“Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title” Virginia Woolf
The Betty Crocker Life
On the margins,
written in #2 lead pencil
or blue ballpoint ink
cursive words form a second life
in The Big Red cook book. An icon
gifted from a mother to her wedded daughter
sometime in 1950 or was it '51? Notes
combined with cheery all-American recipes,
on the pages unfolds a family's history.
There was a baby boy born March of 1950.
The exact date of a son or a brother written
in the corner, a keystone in the arch
of freedom. Cloth diapers, next is war.
Kennedy was assassinated on 10/22,
a rainy Friday afternoon; there are
stains on the page for double pie crust.
Are they tear drops or fingertips of Crisco oil?
There are no faint hearts written upon
the burnished cook book paper.
The price of bread, the price of love,
the price of gas all noted on the column
where the meatloaf with mashed recipe is.
Lists of errands, phone numbers, dates
of deaths and births, measurements for
a vanilla cake with the exact baking time,
August 8th was the day the neighbor gave it.
What is hidden on the pages of a solitary
life? The history of the past, the mechanics
of two hands cooking in a kitchen,
momma’s words helping a soldier march
through the fields and one day he will go home
and on and on the words and numbers go,
and soon we will all go home.
White holidays and a questioning family,
the traditional brown gravy spills on embroidered
linen, mother’s wrinkled hand trembles and she stares
looking for responses to a thousand questions
hidden somewhere in the margins; a dictation
of her life mixed into misery’s crippled step
trying to make the basis for an old time recipe for
her family’s Sunday dinner in the 21 century.