Volume 18 – O Peg Padnos


~Peg Padnos

Heat your pot of cool water
and a tablespoon of olive oil.
Enjoy the colors of the flames—
regal cobalt blue with bursts of tangerine.
Once everything’s come to a boil,
add whatever kind of pasta you may have,
stiff as a sheaf of broom straws,
brittle as thinning bones. Don’t forget to note
the pleasure of the stir as strands shed gluten,
bend for the sake of tongs and plate,
teeth and tongue. Read the water closely
as clarity dulls to dishwater gray—
skies clouding over, serious weather on the way.
By then you’re ready to lift a spoonful,
not so much to taste, but more to feel a certain weight,
a lightening, not unlike the baby’s dropping inside the womb.
It’s not much to brag about—this perfect batch..
How Mom would take your hand in hers,
stirring the spoon clockwise toward the back of the pot,
lest you stain your clothes from a splash of broth or sauce.
How Dad would pour morning coffee into your juice glass,
a metal spoon dropped in to draw the heat.
Mostly milk heaped with sugar, it tasted bittersweet.
And offered warmth that he had missed when he himself was five.
No, that perfect pasta’s not much to brag about
when feeling its heft on the wooden spoon.
Grandpa, a simple postal clerk, would balance
a letter on his palm with a slow-motion up and down
to tell if it needed a single stamp or two.
Never worried about postage due.
And Grandma would bend over her stove,
using sight and smell to test the progress of her stew.
As a young immigrant housemaid,
she was not allowed to taste from the pot
of whatever she was cooking for her boss.