Jul/Aug 2003 Poetry

Two Poems

by John Reinhard


Cooking with Women

The women shave
the asparagus down, trimming
away the tough and stringy
layers. Men search
until they find
the crisp
neck of the asparagus
at which point the men
and snap.

Women like to measure
with some accuracy. Men
estimate, always toss in more
than is called for. Men strut
in the kitchen, play
with knives and heat.
Here's some curry, some
poblano peppers, some anaheims,
some Scotch bonnet, watch that!
Here's some spicy sesame oil, some
Cajun salt, some dried
red pepper flakes.

When men share a kitchen
with women, they like to show
off, so they cook gross things.
Men know how good this can be.
Chicken hearts dredged in spiced flour
and deep fried. Prairie oysters, dipped
in egg wash, dredged in spiced flour
and deep fried. Pickles plopped
in spicy beer batter
and deep fried.

When the dinner's over, the women
are often amazed at the rough delicacy
and fleshy deliciousness of
deep-fried gross things. The women lick
their lips. The men say,
Let's clean up in the morning. The women
tease the men into the kitchen
where the grease is congealing on the
slippery floor, which the men
will soon be wiping, the men on their
knees, thinking about the feasts
that women are, the women whose hands
and arms are soaking with suds, women
who are thinking about
how clean everything will be
when the women are done
and the men are fast asleep
in the brilliant shine.


The Fruits of Love

My son introduces me to a fresh cantaloupe.
"Dad," he says, "this is my friend, Dave,
and I'm not gonna eat him."

That night, climbing into bed
between his mother and me
he is cradling Dave. He has
dressed Dave the cantaloupe
in a pair of Batman underwear.
My four-year-old son smiles and tells me,
"I just have a whole lotta love."

I must confess, for me, a whole lotta love
is three decades ago, Led Zeppelin,
right about when they were also
singing, "Squeeze my lemon, baby,
till the juice runs down my leg."

This seemed fairly profound
at the time, and so began
my own sordid history
with fruit, a series of
one-night stands, an intimacy
with pineapple, painful, and
melon, unnamed, and one
particularly sad encounter involving
a cored apple
that disintegrated before
our big moment arrived, and I remember
staring down at the debris
and feeling certain that if, somehow,
a woman showed up right now
and took me in her mouth, she'd
be astonished, thinking,
How delicious!
How McIntosh!
How Granny Smith!

But no woman showed.
I was finished with fruit.
And desire remained
the one constant, however
solitary and insistant
and full of seed.
It was good preparation, though,
for the eventual happiness
I don't take for granted, for
the sweetness in a woman's mouth,
her sweetness and mine.

Yet it didn't prepare me
for Dave, for my son sleeping
with a cantaloupe and calling it
love, for what that might portend
in an already complicated life. For
how, after three days, our bed sheet
begins to reek with the sweat
and stink of cantaloupe, overripe.

So we send Dave off,
our son never realizing, lost by then
to his drawings of dinosaurs and
sea dragons, his mind
on bigger things. He never
notices Dave in the dumpster,
Dave never to know what it is
to be cut in half,
to be eaten, Dave the cantaloupe
tossed off at the last
and more than a little bruised.


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