Shaping the Spoon
This is what she felt: buckle-end of her father’s belt,
the dry-smacked kiss of a wooden spoon
against her back, her brother’s hands touching her
wrong. In a basement, my mother–a splintered girl–would wait
thinking of their cold metal bodies in the silverware drawer all night.
She’d gather them, knives, forks, spoons, bring them to bed, tell them a story,
sleep with them, clattering at the foot of the bed when she’d stir.
Tucking the teaspoons in like babies, the up-tilt
of their oval faces, their slender-handled bodies warm. Then she slept through the night;
something in her craving a way to save something, even one spoon
from all she couldn’t save herself: the terrible weight
of night, the cold hardness pressing her.
Even spoon-faced babies, even cavemen begin here:
with a stone-carved ladle or so the anthropologist’s story
goes. You Spoon, most complete, nothing like the spaced-out
fork, all that light between its tines, what can it cradle? Here’s the way
it went down: early man moved from you to fork, then knife, span-
ned a great distance of appetite.
You hovered by the coffee at the reading that night:
the poet began by saying each of her love poems once held a knife, each story
a blade. In the steel clink of flatware I hear
the armor of body against body. Armed, I too began with knives, Spoon,
worked my way backwards, left
always with a bad taste in my mouth, dry, metallic, a bit like blood. The wait
for love was endless and whether the straight
edge of emptiness, the serrated saw blade of night
that caught me or the sharp prongs of need, who can tell?
I hoped for you: round curves and holding, wished for you, waited to hear
what kept you; all the while her story, my story, history
weighed me down. I held onto a pronounced hunger to spoon
out the past, dilute and distribute it, and that sustained me. My baby spoon
was engraved with the wrong time of birth on the handle. Doomed, I’m still late,
all tardiness, missed appointments. Sometimes I want to start
over, in reverse, give you that foreshadowing baby spoon, Spoon of spoons, but what might
you want with it? Surely you’d prefer her
story instead: a child called Mourning who kept
utensils warm at her feet all through the night. Those stories
only circle back, create their own orbit, spin their own tales. Want
slips into catwalk pumps, flashy as a spoon dug hilt-deep into a tired heart.
Shaping the Spoon first appeared in Florida Review and Intaglio (Kent State University Press, 2006).