Thanksgiving Day Stands Alone with Me in the Kitchen
by Ariana D. Den Bleyker
The way my grandmother pronounced tacchino,
I imagined it bambino, cheeks red
from bearing down hard, or a paper lantern, or
a piece of jewelry tucked away, the pearls strangely gleaming—
bambina—part jewel—a hybrid star punched out
of a puzzle looking to find me in a girl’s creative universe,
little, or a princess in disguise—all shimmer.
We won’t forget the bambina, bambina, bambina, dismissed
from the kitchen, supper—twirling, twirling
as the ballerina I knew I was because of tacchino—
suddenly uttered like a magic word.
Though I grew taller & stronger, budding fruit
just waiting for the sun to breathe itself into me,
I never wanted to be a woman—
more importantly—one of these women
holding moss covered stones, ancient wells, trailing vines
entangled in their eyes—their treasures concealed
in canyons where I’d float on their pale hazel-blue waves
or fully immerse myself there, could submerge
myself as the beloved or that vivid hope, molten,
hardened around my youth—
While at the counter preparing Thanksgiving dinner,
these two women speak to me.
I imagine them walking down rocky paths toward me,
strong Italian women returning from fields, graceful women
carrying baskets of figs. What I know
of these women, I know from only what I see, photographs
of San Angelo, of my mother’s childhood stories—
most of them from watching my mother, my grandmother,
her strong arms lifting sheets out of cold water
or from the way she stepped back, wiping her hand
on her apron, her jars of roasted red peppers
suspended in olive oil. I saw who I’d become
in these women as they worked,
matriarchs grinning & happy in fields
spilling their bounty into their arms, giving away
baskets of eggplants, loaves of bread. I see them
in my daughter, the same unending energy,
quick mind, that hand, open & extended to the world.
When I clean the kitchen counter, I turn, laughing
at my daughter, I remember the last time
I said goodbye to my grandmother as my daughter turns
to me now, as I turn & I see my grandmother walking
toward us, through the fields,
behind her hundreds of girls dressed in black.
* * * * *
Ariana D. Den Bleyker is a Pittsburgh native currently residing in New York’s Hudson Valley where she is a wife and mother of two. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and every once in a while sleeps. She is the author of three collections, sixteen chapbooks, a novelette, an experimental memoir, and three crime novellas. She hopes you'll fall in love with her words.