Thrift store find. Fifty cents. I like how stout
it is, carved of some uncertain hardwood,
one black scar on the handle suggesting
its owner snatched it off a hot burner.
I like the wear on the tip of the spoon.
Someone stirred and stirred, sanding the right side
of the bowl to near-flatness—the stirrer
left-handed, it appears, more than likely
a woman, perhaps living—wild surmise—
in Iowa in the thirties, baby
balanced on her right hip while she stands
in the heat of her Monarch cast iron stove
stirring porridge or corn mush or beef stew.
Now it’s my turn to keep milk from scalding,
milk into which I will stir chocolate
pudding powder. It’s three a.m., the third
of January. I can’t claim to see
the light snow that dusts the cars parked out front,
since I’m at the stove stirring the pudding.
I can, however, see grains fall like salt
on the outer sill of the near kitchen
window, just as she too might have seen snow
or rain fall as she stood and stirred, switching
hands when her left grew tired, as my left hand
does now. Yes, it was a woman who carved
the much-used spoon in my hand. And if not
on an Iowa farm, then somewhere else,
preparing countless meals, hanging the spoon
on its nail, through the augured off-center
hole in the handle, taking down the spoon,
putting it on its nail, taking it down,
putting it on, down, on, the years passing,
kids having grown and left the farm, removed,
I’d venture, to the city. So the spoon
contains all the sadness of her left hand.
Even the spoon journeyed away from her,
settling against all odds in my kitchen
to stir the just-now-bubbling pudding.
It’s as if I’ve entered another life,
one where I cook, clean, give birth, raise children,
watch snow whiten a stacked cord of firewood.
It’s as if she’s beside me as I write, as if she has
given me the spoon and taken my free hand
in hers to stroll the garden of our two worlds.
View of Richmond Beach
All I long for is the rasp of small waves,
the sound of the Sound, that slap of flat green glass,
or to scale the bluff and read the names on graves—
Lund, Weiss, Baby Matsue, lost in uncut grass.
A cloud turns rosy like Anders’ plastic flower.
Sister, lover, father—flowers meant to nullify decay.
Comes a time our ordinary star will lose its power,
the lighthouse light will flicker, life will sail away.
There’s a cheery thought. The bluff sheers off at my feet.
My sons once ran on that sand, played with shells
and kelp. Crows tumble like tatters of a burnt sheet
to roost down-beach where they cast their spells.
Dusk falls. Far out, a ferry glitters its way
to Vashon Island, bearing the last light of day.
Read Edward Harkness’s Letter to America poem, “Union Creek in Winter.”
Header photo of snowy landscape viewed through window by adzerka, courtesy Pixabay.