Monday, May 30, 2011

The Honey Dipper of the Heart

Photo from the Honey Harvest Farms Catalog

She said scornfully, “You don't know what orzo is? It's not rice. It's pasta, shaped like rice.” When she spoke faster, as the flirtation proceeded, her r's stumbled over each other and began to roll. I couldn't place the accent. Greek?

The Greeks seem unable to shake the delusion that pasta belongs in soups. I remember dozens of shipboard meals of spaghetti soup: that, and spinach, cooked to disintegration, floating like seaweed in bowls of olive oil. We speculated among ourselves: did the Greeks eat that stuff at home, or was it just something they thought tourists would like?

Pasta in soup can be done. That avgolemno, egg-lemon soup! We used to eat it in Seattle, at a place in the U-District called “The Continental Cafe.” It was wonderful, sweet and sour, utterly new to us. A new taste for a new world.

Not new any more, of course. I don't know if the cafe, even if the district, is still there. When you're young you think these trendy neighborhoods are immortal, but they're as short-lived as rats. Seven years is a good run.

I watch the blue flickers run down the sides of my face, pool along the top of my collar bone, and soak inwards. The sudden thin wash of despair. Yah. It changes nothing, my pretty darlings..

But. Not looking for new worlds, now. Looking for a way to fully inhabit the ones I know. God, this is hard. And the rewards seem so slight, compared to the tremendous rattle and roll of death and debility. Just one more, they whisper. Just one more world, before you give up. This time you'll know what to do.

I grow increasingly suspicious of the provisional, the “just for now,” the “just this once,” even as I become more deeply convinced of impermanence. Ad hoc, we say, but everything is ad hoc: the real question is just what hock we're adding to.

I settle my forearm across the small of the back, let it wash up on the shore of the sacrum, and rake between the ribs with the fingers of my other hand: up the grooved side and over the back. I just want people to know that their ribs go all the way around, sweet living hoops, graceful flourishes.

The cage of the heart, said the Anglo-Saxon poets, with the typical Anglo-Saxon stupidity about the body. No. Say the sleeve of the heart, the honey dipper of the heart, the Saturn's rings of the heart. They're not caging anything. They're less like armor than they are like the framework of bars over the bed of our pickup truck, something you can grab and tie to.


Zhoen said...

I like pasta in soup, especially when it's boiled soft. Never got the point of "al dente" really.

Dave said...

Man, I live for pasta e fagioli. You are so wrong about this, Dale.

Lucy said...

I was introduced to that slippery larks tongue pasta stuff by an Egyptian who'd lived in Greece. I had it in Greece in a kind of sloppy tomato gravy round meat. I love it, and eat it in a kind of abominable fusion with oyster sauce and broccoli, or peas.

Perhaps we can hope to find the same excitement at the prospect of new ways to inhabit our existing worlds as we did at the new, but without the awfulness of being young. It is hard, though, and hard to trust it. But we can still allow ourselves to be surprised byt the feeling that there's everything to look forward to, however fleeting it is...

Dale said...

Okay, okay, I give on the pasta-in-soup thing. And nobody even mentioned chicken noodle soup. :-)

Annotated Margins said...

I always thought my ribs were just something to keep my head from falling into my lap.

Anonymous said...

Lately I’ve spent a good chunk of time reading your blog as a silent witness to the vulnerability in your posts. Your perspective is so very different from my own that I’m nearly enchanted by it. Sometimes I come here to remind myself that words (rather, the art behind the words) make me feel alive. Also, that perhaps feeling alive isn’t something I need to be so maddeningly afraid of, and neither is raw humanity.

This time, I think I came to try on a different perspective regarding these cagey ribs of mine. I’ve always found them to be stifling. What would happen if I gave that constant guard a rest and sampled something a bit more freeing? Hm... A girl can dream. Your words are helping me learn to see beauty again in all the expected, as well as the unexpected, places. It’s silly to say thank you for such a thing, but sometimes “thank you” is all we have.