Friday, November 18, 2011

Anya and the Glass Bowl

At the picnic, Anya (of Russian descent),
you told me how much the simple glass mixing
bowl meant to you, that it had once belonged to
babka, and at once I saw her aged hands and

wooden spoon working the pirozhki dough:
flour, baking powder and salt (a hefty pinch),
butter, eggs, and the secret ingredient—
sour cream. Or maybe I saw my own

grandmother’s hands (of French lineage),
dusted in flour for cookies or dinner rolls
as I perched on the back step pinching chives from
her simple garden. Turning over the green,

urgent sapor on my tongue, oblivious
to the fact that the moment was formative
somehow, would one day become a dear memory:
A flavor profile forecasting my own love

of cooking. At the picnic you peeled off
the cellophane, revealed a simple slaw:
cabbage shredded fine, dressing airy and
sour-sweet, I don’t know how you made it though I

must have asked for the recipe, just as
I no longer know how I ended up with the
bowl. I said I’d take it home for you, sure we’d
meet again. We never did. For years I

kept it hidden from harm imagining that
one day you might knock on my door and I would
hug you, say yes, I have your bowl. I’ve kept it well.  
You never knocked. Finally, last night, I pulled

it from its secret place, its tinted walls
thickened by layers of the weight of time,
began to chop carrots, onions, celery;
the start of a fine beef stew. Left unused the

bowl was emptier, somehow vacant, a
condition our grandmothers never would have
tolerated. Now filled it reminds me of
you. You spoke of sacred Russian icons

decorating whitewashed church walls and your
memories of childhood, playing p’yanitsa
in the haze of your uncle’s smoke, glass bowl
full then of tastes you could never replicate.

--c. 2011, Martin A. Bartels (working draft)

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