Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bread Basket-case

Bread Basket-Case

A piece of cornbread
brought her down.

She had been doing well enough,
doing things like
combing her hair,
brushing her teeth,
making the oversized sleigh bed that rested
at the center of her room--
those things that are hardest to do
when nursing
another's leaving.

She had been doing even better
with the necessary rituals,
like taking down the 5x7s
of them laughing
at the wedding of another
matched set
of friends,
or learning to ride the subway
through the lump in her throat that boarded
the train at the stop they used to meet at
after their work days ended.

She took his name out of her mouth
and placed it in a drawer
close to the kitchen sink,
where she could come to fetch it
once it was less likely
to cut her gums and tongue.

But the cornbread was too much.
His favorite, presented in a tiny basket
at a dinner party
flanked by bricks of foil-wrapped butter,
sucking the air from the room,
forcing her to recall
his mouth
his fingers
his satisfied humming
his long-held preference
for baked goods
with actual kernels
folded into the batter.

A single cubic slice
of cornmeal and hot butter
brought him back into the room
like some dark ancient voodoo,
proving there could be
no escape
or going back to the world
that had been
before he came,
and went.

Black magic
in a bread basket.

And so she did the only thing
the cursed can do in such situations:
She ate her heart out.
Fingers grasping at every square,
seeking out and devouring
every crumb of memory
stuffing it down
and swallowing away
each and every piece
unprettily and unrepentant  
until butter glossed her lips,
and her breath was hot and audible,
and her dining partners shifted
in their seats.

And just like that,
he was gone again.
She dabbed the corners of her mouth
daintily with a napkin.

Later a young waiter
well-meaning and well-trained
passed by their table
with another steaming basket
cradled in his curved palm.
More bits of past swathed
in warmed white linen.
The young man extend one long arm
leaning down to land it
in the empty space between her wine glass
and the table's glowing candles.

This time she did nothing
except smile at her friends
with something close to victory
perched on the top of her nose.
She calmly rested a palm across
her slightly distended stomach.
It is hard to be eaten up inside
when one is already stuffed full.