Bio Note: Under the influence of a rather inconsistent Muse, I tend to write a few days a week in between carpool exasperations to three separate schools for five different children. As a stay-at-home father, most of my poetry tends to revolve around the variety of experiences of dealing with children of all ages, not to mention their goddess of a mother, and finding our collective way through the world while maintaining our individuality. We do okay...
With a View Toward Eden
In the drumming, misty morning mayhem of a five-year-old hangover, while yet under the influence of a performance of rites as ancient and sacred as Eden’s fruit trees, my first impulse, reptilian brain driven, is to tempt you with the forked-tongue promise of a life continued in eternal pleasure, as well as a never-ending bright side in which to dwell, if, and especially if, you will be so kind as to descend the stairs, to venture away from this Paradise into the cold and dark of our kitchen, to produce, by the sweat of your ever attractive brow, two slices of whole wheat toast, buttered liberally, and a warm mug of whatever is on hand, and perhaps an apple, peeled and cored and sliced. All of which we will share in bed with him, the writhing and inescapable fruit of our loins who feverishly climbed in at an ungodly hour, like a serpent, seeking simply some shared warmth and perhaps to share some of his best thoughts on Life and Living, on Knowing and Love. But don’t expect the five-year-old to share that apple. Not again...
I am teaching my son, a teen with acne and a sense that the world around us is simultaneously brutal and confusingly beautiful, how to make the lasagna that I grew up eating. I lay open to him the recipe book with the splattered notecards in his grandmother’s careful hand, on which are preserved the wisdoms of the ancients, measured out in teaspoons and cups, in minutes and degrees. We discuss the difference between low heat, medium heat, and high heat while he burns some sausage and leaves some slightly underdone. I no longer grab his hand when too close to the heat because he should burn his fingers and singe a few knuckle hairs like I did under his grandma’s watch forty years and hundreds of lasagnas ago. I show him how to measure precisely and without leaving a mess on the counter. We always leave a mess anyway. Each time he wanders off script, suggesting we try this or that, this being his first time making it, I reel him gently back in, point to the Holy Scripture in the recipe book and urge him to first learn the basic Truth, while stuck as he is in unwilling youth, and then, once he’s mastered these, he may explore the other sides of the mysteries of cooking and of life in general. Of course, each time he turns his back to chop the onion or to seed the tomatoes, I carefully throw into the simmering pot the secret and sacred-to-me ingredients. that even my own mother never used, the spices and flavors of my own life which my son unknowingly stirs in. When all have been served he proudly takes credit for the dish, his attempt at his grandmother’s best, altered to my liking without his nor her knowing, his stature having grown with the task. One day this dish will become fully his, my secret additions replaced by his. Until then, it will taste slightly off, just like mine always tastes off to Grandma, and Grandma’s always tastes off to me.
©2022 Nate Jacob
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