Thursday, 24 August 2017

Never the Right Recipe        
by Andrena Zawinski

The last time I saw her she had just stopped
wearing black, so very many years after the death
of her young husband. Stirring spaghetti sauce,
bubbling up and splashing onto her flowered mumu,
she would sing childhood Sicilian songs, fingering
the red ribbon pinned to her bra strap, bright gold
cornicello dangling from her neck––double protection
from malocchio.  

Those days she would say you and I were young
and dumb with big ideas, tipsy on Dago Red
from backyard Concords she let us taste, sparking spats 
around her Sunday kitchen table on our tarty ways,
trying to look older than our seventeen years
in false eyelashes and teased-up bleached-out hair,
delivering our threats to run off to New York City
in short skirts on platform heels looking for more
than what we had, she making behind her back
a mano cornuto.

Today I thought I found the right recipe
for her falagones, sliced the potatoes and onions
paper-thin, stuffed them inside folded dough,
but too sparse, too dry, missing something.
And now you have told me she can no longer speak,
can barely navigate from chair to bed, shouldering
the curse of having her wits mixed up by the Parkinsons
no ribbon, gold, or hand sign can ward off.

If I could I would tell her about how I have nearly
perfected her bolognese with sausage and beef,
how close it is in color and taste, but never as good as hers.
I would tell her that despite the many passing years,
we are still young and dumb––that even as we now
swirl, sniff, sip our Chianti, nibble our garlic-lemon
bruschetta in small plate fusion tapas bars,
we are still picky eaters struggling to be satisfied
with what we have.

* * * * *

"Never the Right Recipe" was first published Paterson Literary Review #45 (Paterson, NJ).

More about Andrena Zawinski at

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