[Camp Windsor Hill, Rangeley Lake, Maine]
Nephews crowd in with questions
while I'm cooking --
My favorite color?
Favorite food? Favorite place?
I remember this --
it's a boy's way of ordering the world,
by category and rank.
But I cannot choose any more
between the blue of the morning sky
on the clearest day
and the pastel glow of the sunset,
between boiled lobsters and steamed crabs,
between the view of the lake from the porch
and the way the Carrabasset River bends
above the Wire Bridge. The world
has ordered itself quite cleverly.
It no longer needs help from me.
What I have now
is this favorite skillet --
cast iron, big, and black,
older than the stove it sits on
by three-quarters of a century.
It is seasoned to perfection
by dozens of cooks
and thousands of meals --
breakfasts, lunches, dinners --
all forgotten now.
But in the silk-smooth surface
of the skillet's iron
those meals persist --
they're the molecules that protect
tonight's mushrooms from scorching,
and that come between the spinach
and the heat.
July and November, 2001