January 18, 2009

    On the Verge of Falls

        Each step is the first.
  My father taught me how to walk for miles looking at the ground and sametime at birds overhead, faint sickle moon, cat on a porchswing, cumulus, insectegg, cirrus, silver brooch. So in walking down Falls, I see it all except what is around the next bend in the road, what is under the bramblethicket, who is behind the steelclang door. But I can hear the tunes stuffed in oil barrels. I can hear whispers. A person could spend a whole life . . . lookwalking.
  I lay one foot, then the other, on the verge of Falls Road. See there? Bugsquash; struggling leavesofgrass; dandelion whiskers; a rosehip blown from a gaygarden a block away; antifreeze puddle in a greenmelted gemmy dribble; splats of crow lime; a rats’ hide softened with forty-weight motoroil; a pigeon skin with pink legs stuck out like fancy chopsticks (I cross myself); a cobbler’s nail freed from a millworker’s boot in eighteen ninety-seven, ninety-eight.
    Ninety-nine, 100, 101, 102 … a thousand and one
  Sparklemica flecks; crusted lockwasher; twisted padlock key; the wincing collarbone from a med-student’s skeleton; the corner of a 50% cotton Confederate flag, sagged and suspicious up there on a high stone porch; a cicada shell hatched lonesome midway in the seventeen-year cycle; coal dust whupped up from a rehabbed cellar; a pinky-gray formstone chip; bentspoke of a bikewheel; three reflectors from pedalbacks (wanna bet how many there are on the verge of Falls?). Bottlecaps – crush-rusty boutonniĆ©res from drunken bachelors bound to be groomed by brides?
      Each step is a different step.
  Scrapes of turd and flights of beetlewing. A bite of button with silkthread -- botticelli blue. A young girl’s tearstained friendship bracelet, fallen off near a hard-dirt shortcut home. Bits of broken glass: beer brown, Bromo blue, sunned lavender with greenlips of Coke bottles. Spangles of colored glass – yellow, red, blue and black – from a kaleidoscope that helped the curious child with A.D.H.D to get through a day…or was it for his rope-end mother? Dangle of red dog leash – a frayed handgrip and nothing more. What dog was it was killed? And, Daddy, is that her blood?
        Every step was a lifetime.
  Extruded from its mangled tube, dark oily lipstick smeared like rawliver onto stones. So, just whose kisses were promised and stolen? Is that a broken heart I hear? No, it’s just an orphan earring -- a piece of cheap redplastic; nothing more. Did that blue and white china shard come from the plate that held Grampa En’s last meatball dinner? And is that the nevertarnish lid of a nickel-silver rouge compact, like the one pale Gran carried everywhere for blushing youngcheeks, back in the day?
          Walk with me?
  That’s a flyer for the VFW dance in Timonium: Valentine’s Day, with a polkaband and a hot buffet – tendollars, tenderly, ten years ago, gone for good and godbless. A shiny blackpearl of glassy slag -- spit from a cokefired train – rolled for 80 years, mile by mile down Falls from the North Central track. And (for just a second) a shadowblink of light through a shutter up the hill – signaling secrets like a boyscout’s mirror.
        What was lost?
          Who fell?
          Who wept?
        What was the reward?
         Who won?
            Who laughed?
  That yellowbrass key – see there how the hole wore out so it fell off the keyring? So who was it couldn’t get in their house? Whose phonecall was missed? Left brown kid glove, wrinklefingers frozen in a curl – grasping what?
        Is each step the last?
  Is that twig from a branch from a limb from a tree with a sparrow’s nest? That jaywhoppered woredown rubberheel mightacomeoff of Stanley’s workboot – the one it took him a year to break in and now it’s broke off. Damn! And a bluestripe denimhide workglove, pimpled with drywall cement, flattened in mid-handshake. Stanley’s glove? Or his friend’s … that guy, LeShawn’s?
  Wetsoaked dried soakedsoddenwad driedagain grey foldedfelt of newspaper – the letters strained into each other, stories mingled updown goodbad easydangerous shockingheartyfine with a chance of… What news is too old? What notice has not been noticed? Found your watch. Describe. -- Found your dog, green collar, describe dog. Lost. Sentimentalvalueonly brown kid glove, given me by my mother, my lover, my doctor. Still got the right one. But please, I’m on the verge of a, of a... A sooty brokedown mufflerpipe with coathanger twisted around it and a peeling of plastic chrome snagged from the bumper where it hung. Who roared into hell?
        What was lost? A thought.
        What was found? A line.
        Each step is the first step..
        Every step is a lifetime.

January 2008 for friends Christine Sajecki & Joe Young and their show Deep Falls at Antreasian Gallery

January 17, 2009

      Grace and the Kitchen God

  Yesterday my friend Grace Young (Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, Breath of the Wok) spoke on public radio about the Kitchen God who lives behind the stove in every Chinese American and Chinese kitchen. The night before Chinese New Year, on toward midnight, you start eating things like stir-fried lettuce, so that you eat right into the New Year. Meanwhile, my own Kitchen God is sitting back there, his legs up over the gas line, picking lint off his robe, counting dust bunnies, humming to himself, and waiting for the banquet which the thoughtful household leaves for him. He knows every bad thing you've done for a year, and he's ready to tell whomever will listen.
  In my house, right now, behind my stove, he's cussing me out because there's a leak in a pipe right above the stove, and lots of cold water has dripped down, and the puddle I didn't catch in time has made his robe sopping wet, and ruined his little stash of stir fry and dried shrimp that he keeps for emergencies. In my house, the Kitchen God wears a thick green terrycloth robe with big pockets, and has his own vacuum cleaner because I am not a very good housekeeper. Last year a small rat visited him back there, and he was not smiling. (Although I think they shared a lamb and rice kibble from the dog bowl, and possibly that lima bean I lost back in March of '08.)
  This year, I plan on leaving him really nice snacks and a small glass of beer for a week or so because maybe if he feels full he won't tell the others -- the Garage God, the Bedroom God, the Closet God, the Backyard God, etc. I just couldn't handle it if everything started falling apart.
  To see more on Grace and her KG: WokitchenWisdom