Oct/Nov 2021  •   Poetry

Cooking Jambalaya for a Dinner Party in a Maine Cottage

by Christine Potter

Artwork borrowed from Unsplash.com

Artwork borrowed from Unsplash.com

Cooking Jambalaya for a Dinner Party in a Maine Cottage

Congratulating myself because chicken isn't lobster
and lobster is the last thing you feed any Mainer in
July, I scattered ballet-pink bits of chicken into

andouille drippings for a friend we hadn't seen since
the world stopped. Other than fat sizzling, the only
sound was no sound, a profound, miles-deep silence

that had stopped us in the sun-blasted front yard of
our rental when we first opened the car door, a silence
that owned the end of our sentences like the llamas

that nearly stopped the Tour de France in the Alps,
the loose fists of their bodies half-lost in mountain fog,
their necks curved like forefingers getting ready to

make a point. I need to say here that I've never kept
a dog. And I need to put us all back in the kitchen
with shrimp and rice. Something jingled like keys

announcing the arrival home of whoever had been
absent—but it wasn't keys. More jingling. Then, the
what's-it: the side-of-the-eye blip, a grey-muzzled

black Lab with her old brown eyes fixed on me and
chicken, her breath wet and her head warm at my
knee as I stood cooking. Dog tags! Claws tapping the

polished wood floor! The door to the deck open, my
husband outside, dreamily wiping raindrops from
a glass tabletop. It's a dog! I called to him and saw

him scan the yard: Where? The Lab licked my fingers.
In the house! I tossed the chicken in my hand onto
the deck and the dog galloped after it. There were

three of us outside then, including the dog's noisy
enjoyment of what I had cooked. Then came wheels
crackling tiny pebbles on the dirt road, a golf cart, a

sun hat, the Lab's owner saying Bailey Girl is fifteen
but a puppy still, taking her home. I thought of how
Bailey must have run right past my husband, unseen.

How quiet it was again! A lichen-touched tree sifted
the Atlantic wind. How lovely this world filled with
animals is! How lovely the wordlessness animals own!