Elizabeth Hoover’s poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], the Los Angeles Review, Prism, and Poetry Northwest. It has received awards from the U.S. Poets in Mexico conference and Split This Rock. She is the Assistant Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University. You can see more of her work at ehooverink.com.
Our mother dreams of other children, children who grew up on fantaisie boubonaise and choux de bruxelles, children who can beat egg whites into stiff peaks while singing sweet songs about balloons and geese. She sends us—her real children who tear hems and hoard broken candy—to the grocery store with impossible lists: saucisson, crème anglaise, haricot verts. Maybe sugo means to sag like this malformed zucchini. Is pois frais bumpy like this speckled peach in the bottom of the box? When we offer them to her, she wails and begs the cookbook to tell her what to do. The cookbook calmly lists its clever words. Our mother has always believed in marvels and her other children are marvelous. She sends them scurrying around the kitchen to julienne and tender. She asks them to bring her marvelous ingredients that sound like the clicking of a music box just before it plays. We—her real children—search for things that might lure her from the spitting saucepot and the crestfallen soufflé. We find beetles and snakes and crawfish. We find rocks shaped like pastors and eggshells with pink crests. She shoos us from the surge and smoke, kitchen hot as the gut of a fresh-killed cow. We watch her like we watch the morning moon fade to blue. We know we can’t keep her—not with buckeyes or plundered blackberries or ice drizzled with honey. We are left in the wreckage and smolder of the kitchen and are grocer’s children now.
Read by Justin Hargrave
I can already see my wife—butterless—
as I climb the drive with my grocery sacks.
She’d found a recipe in the paper, asked
if I’d get butter when I went into town.
I wanted to ask her if I am ever still strange
to her like she can be to me when she rattles
the paper’s spine or when I wake to find her
sleeping turned away, knees tucked, smooth
and taut as an ibex, but there is butter
to deal with, and she rummages the cupboards,
spilling baking soda and jumbling rows of spices.
Just inside the store, an opulence green
as a cicada’s wing. Arugula name fluttering
like its own leaves, which smell of iron
and rain and taste like words I crunch
watching my wife change from ibex to belly.
I count three bunches, then examine lemons
for firmness, weigh out favas, select slabs
of pink tuna, dismantle a pyramid of cucumbers.
Sensing something missing, I search
for Moroccan sugar, the fattest dates,
bitter almonds, and vanilla beans in slender vials.
My shoulders ache with the weight of my bags
and my wife—butterless—holding the clipped recipe
will sigh, familiar as rutted pears from our own garden.