Within, where there is light, the omelets
have been made
using every cast iron pan
From every cupboard in the universe.
In a warm kitchen, hunger is an old, hopeful dog.
The grey at the windows, the white of eggshells
Strewn everywhere, shattered and glistening.
The feet gliding from stove to sink and back,
The sudden absence of his bowl. These are ample evidence.
He knows. There will be a depth of dinner, enough
Even for him. You’d see – should you peer through
The frost flowers on the window –
The silent dancing, the dropping shells, the chemistry of liquid egg
Poured into hot pans...
So stylized, so committed to memory by now
Are the economics of necessity,
That they call this choreography, or cooking.
But really, she is simply doing her best
Not to step on any of the shells.
The egg shells are everywhere.
If he hadn’t seen this so often,
He would think it was spring –
That these shattered half ovals
Were recently vacated cocoons,
That the birds or butterflies or moths
Had scattered in flights overhead
Fragments of color and light,
Fancying someplace surely warmer.
Yes, he sees. Their shells are everywhere.
She has plunked the dog’s dish on the floor.
Blind with age, half-deaf, he smells
the heavy atmosphere of food.
By now his senses are few but certain.
With an old man’s stiff grace
He is moved by the remnants of appetite,
Pulled toward the bowl in blind obedience
To Hunger, he shuffles past the fragmented edges
And never steps on even one small, broken carapace.
He eats with a puppy’s assurance that there will
Always be Dinner-and-After, a long sleep by the fire.
She has become uncertain and silent. The chaotic kitchen alarms her visitors.Soon they will come to take the old woman to The Home where she can be cared for.
The dog will be given to her nephew since he always loved that old mutt the best.
The woman will live for several weeks in The Home before dying one night in her sleep. Three days after her death, the dog will leave in the same way, dying quietly in the middle of the night whilie lying on the floor at the foot of the newphew's bed.
The nephew mourns them both all through that unusally long, deadly winter. Everyone on the Upper Peninsula, used to the harshness, are still moved to remark on the bitter cold and the refusal of Spring to show her face.
The nephew understands, though he never attempts to explain...he says to me in an email, "I don't think they'd understand if I tried to say anything".
I reply, "sometimes no explanation will do. In cases of extreme sorrow, we simply have to live through them if we can".
In his final message he says, "I finally got that Labrador puppy I told you about. He is playful but easy to train. And speaking of pups, I will be a father in June. We are giving our child her name in the hope that she may grow up to be the woman Louisa was. But by then, I too..."