Oct/Nov 2003 Poetry

Two Poems

by Kate Sontag

Photo-Art by Tara Gilbert-Brever


Following a Quake

After eight hours my father and the earth have stabilized.
      For the next three days beneath fluorescent lights
his heart a red ice plant with one wilted stem
      tries to root itself firmly back inside his chest.

Heavy as shovels propped against their garage
      his wife and stepsons lean back.
They have been up all night digging through pain
            clearing the way for a recovery.

Jet engines propel me to his side from miles away
      the tail winds lagging behind us with the past.
Still I am the daughter ironing handkerchiefs he will rumple
      into clouds. It takes forever to land.

A light release of dust has resettled over Los Angeles
            unifying the broken city viewed from above
suggestively as preservable ties in a family
            captured on old reels of discolored film.

With each aftershock the fleshy red ice plant
      along cascading borders of coastline
blooms and sways and blooms and sways
      working its way toward the center of the desert.


Daddy Eggs Blues

A man at the stove after a fight.
Melting butter. Breaking eggs
into a skillet. Solo. Can he grind
his own coffee beans? Can he burn
his own toast? Yellow-robed

potbellied prince of a man. Retired
breadwinner forever waited on by
his family and the rest of humankind
kind of man. Sunny side up with enough
fat and salt to go straight to his heart:

part of which is pure gold. Ask any
woman who ever loved him but hated
his kind. Even his mother will tell you
he's her one and only spoiled half-
rotten son of a man. Maybe that's

where it all began? Aging brat boy.
Fallen father. Long-legged leaning
tower of a man. Wolf slippered
in sheepskin wanting the world
to kiss his clumsy royal feet.

Pitiful, problematic, anachronistic man.
Papaya King junkie alone in a barren
white Manhattan kitchen man. Making
the only thing he can make for himself
so he won't die of hunger while

his wife stays on strike. What his
daughters when they were younger
let him serve them with pride
as if he had laid each improbable orb.
But they've moved on, married well-

mannered men who cook up a storm
—appetizers, entrées, desserts—
equally skilled with a sponge
and a broom, mindful to leave
no mess behind, no crumbs, no slime.

Pan needs to be washed man,
left greasy on the burner. Shells
need to be tossed man, left scattered
on the counter. Standup mealtime man,
canted plate in hand, dropping daddy

eggs onto the floor like infidelities.
Here is my sad mad song to you
feasting on your yolk-runny fork
until she takes you back. Lick it
clean man. Keep lick'n it clean.


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