by Faye Zhang
Snap. Crisp. Twist. Chop. Sizzle. Slurp. Cooking sounds
familiar as mother’s apron, well worn
grooves of wood pan handle, plush pad of kitchen rug—
cat clock in caddy corner (lifted of some garage sale) watches over kitchen.
Child reaches hand towards hot
stove, mother slaps hand back, cat clock
mews the hour—twelve noon for lunch—
sandwiches laid out cut like maple leaves.
Chipped blue china bowls ring out the souping
hour, scraped clean by metal spoons: Slurps
chicken egg noodle, slurps sweet carrots, slurps steam,
broth homemade, talisman against cold of all sorts.
Cooking sounds, familiar as mother’s apron, well worn
grooves of cutting board, grooves in tomato vine grown,
kitchen rag worn to gray, like home—
cat clock in caddy corner watches over mouse hours.
Sounds missed: sounds echoing off to
nowhere, replaced with conveyer belt,
replaced with plastic trays ringing
hollow, with formations of numbered things.
Cat clock in caddy corner mews the hour—
12 noon for lunch—both back home (repeat: home)
and here: where shuffled papers dip casually in marinara,
and fingers grasp for pallid pastries factory fresh.
Plastic wraps float in plastic trash
sterile steams billow by metal jaws: Slurps
coffee, slurps papers, slurps knowledge, slurps computer clacking keys,
slurps time until time trickles down corners of mouths. Here is cold of all sorts.
Missed cooking sounds: Crunchy heads of broccoli.
Charred meat on outdoorsy dad grill.
Wurst upon bursted wurst.
Knead dough, need dough, kneed dough.
Powder puffs of whipped egg peaks.
Love sounds—oh—something missing from the repertoire
here, amongst made trellises, amongst cold stone stairs,
amongst cut iron fences, amongst dusty books, among armies of grown children
dressed like scholars, consuming canned foodstuff by the forkful.
The register pings, edibles servers
textured packages by well meaning folks in aprons—not mother’s—
tables just disinfected, never greased with history’s salty layers,
last week’s ravioli, dreams of yesteryear.
Chairs like troughs, pig remainders. Men,
men, men with beards, buttons, dark historic jackets, watch from walls.
Chandeliers dangle from ceilings;
if they fall to the ground and no one there to witness, would they make a sound?
Perhaps, back home (repeat: home),
the cat clock would mew the hour, raise paw in salute, tick noon,
tick back hours to a past time
when a small child reached towards stove, confident in mother’s hand
—call back memory of making something wholly made.
From scratch takes on new meaning. Perhaps one thing only remains,
one thing only possible: to place hand on pan, place pan on stove,
listen deep to crackle of grease—breath—and remember love in cooking sounds.