Any cook will tell you, when you brown meat and rest it on the plate, blood will accumulate there and you always use that blood, or whatever juice comes out, when you put it in the pot.
I sat in the hot tub thinking, when was it I started tweaking like this? Has it been all my life? Is the brain like a piece of fruit that ripens over time, destined only to draw flies? Seeing old friends was sad when they looked older, and I realized so must I—we are all in a race that no one wants to win, this march of life, this procession.
I halved the dried prunes and soaked them in a cup of brandy longer than I needed, but figured it couldn’t hurt. The French pork stew with prunes and cream, Dijon mustard, served over buttered noodles, the fat pappardelle egg pasta that costs $7 a package but you only get eight ounces, so I had to buy two.
Trying to relax in the hot tub but distracted by all that needed to be picked out of the water. The satisfying look of a newly stacked woodpile. Week-old vegetable oatmeal soup for lunch, cold, the breakdown in proteins that makes it stringy but still good. The ever-battered and beaten up kitchen, how the cupboards get sticky from the oil and catch hair like flypaper, how it adheres like a skin. And dare I look at the fins at the base of the refrigerator where the fan blows, the hair down there like an old man’s mustache.
How things would get put in the fridge with no rhyme or reason if it weren’t for me, the sheriff of condiments, applying logic to the leftovers, grouping them. How regularly I have to cull through the duplicates in sauces and dressings—how sometimes a large container of yogurt gets put there with hardly a spoonful remaining…or a bottle of wine, with just a finger or two.
The sickly condition of the dish washer, the strange grime that amasses there like coffee grounds, or potting soil. And where does it come from? The brown stains that flare up from stagnant water on the dish rack, how hard it is to remove. And the sad insides of our stove…of the microwave…cooking is a dirty business, and so is living together: we are all like pack animals in our lairs, shifting like pigs in the straw, in our stalls.
Having to listen to Lily and her friends watch a slasher film on the laptop while I’m trimming the pork. The screaming and cutting sounds as I handle the meat. Watching my legs underwater in the hot tub and how bloated they look, thinking about getting old. Refilling the tub with the hose but forgetting it was on, dozing in the hammock…waking to the sound of Charlotte crying from the house, “It’s overflowing!”—and me, running through the grass to turn it off. Dodging poop, barefoot.
Having Lily read my Tarot Friday night and starting with the Five of Swords (never good), a distant loss she says, weighing on my consciousness. Ending with the Six of Pentacles, a good card, and me as a sharer of wisdom, just a satchel’s worth…
Advice for would-be poets: if athletes train by going to the gym, your training comes from brooding by the lake, from looking inside…from finding yourself in the spaces between the clouds and the layers beneath the surface…it’s what’s in you, the blood, that gives it the flavor.