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Donald Platt

02-15-08

Sizzling Happy Family

 

                   The mother and father

who brought me into this life on the cusp of the Crab and the Lion

                   now forget

 

to eat.  They line up their dozens of pills on the formica

                   counter and swallow them

with over-diluted orange juice concentrate.  When we visit, I find nothing

 

                   for dinner but three frozen chicken

pot pies.  I take my two children grocery-shopping and cook for all of us

                   my own bastard version of Sizzling

 

Happy Family, the ancient Chinese meal of pork, chicken, beef, and seafood

                   grilled together

with vegetables.  My wife and I eat no meat, so I sauté tiger shrimp and garlic,

 

                   scallops, squid,

summer squash, red peppers, asparagus, snow peas, and Maine

                   mussels with bunches

 

of cilantro and purple basil chopped.  I season it with coarse sea salt

                   and fresh

ground pepper, and serve it with a pyramid of corn on the cob picked

 

                   that day.  My mother

and father stare at this steaming platter of smells and colors

                   harvested from the earth

 

and ocean, cooked for them in desperation and hunger

                   by one of their two

middle-aged sons.  Slowly, tentatively, they help

 

                   themselves

to this strange food.  My mother picks up a mussel in its shell

                   steamed open

 

like an iris in late April to reveal its blue-and-white-enameled

                   inner petals.

She teases out the plump sexual meat and chews its tender

 

                   saltiness.  My father

reaches for the corn, then spears asparagus and shrimp together

                   on the tines

 

of his trembling fork.  “Remember,” he turns to my mother, “Napoli,

                   the little tratoria

where we ate linguini with artichoke hearts, and how we saw

 

                   octopi hung on clotheslines

with the day’s wash?”  My mother holds up a sunburst of squid

                   like a wild wedding ring

 

and stuffs it whole into her mouth.  “Yes,” she replies, “and the red table wine

                   cheap as water

and us on Pegasus, our Harley, cruising down the Costa Brava

 

                   after the war

past the entire Third Army on maneuvers, all those catcalls!”  They laugh

                   together and have forgotten

 

us.  Sixty years slip like an avalanche from their shoulders.  It is

                   another country.

They live on kisses and calamari, tasting everything

 

                   the waiter puts

before them—seviche, its raw scallops, onions, and green peppers

                   over which my father squeezes

 

lime juice bright and astringent as sunlight, then fritto misto.  Keep eating,

                   I want to tell them.  Remember

how hungry you are for all of this.  Belch.  Throw down the napkins

 

                   stained with the prints

of your lips.  Order coffee and the pears with rum.  Have them flame it.

                   Don’t leave the table.  Not yet.

 

                            -from My Father Says Grace 



 

Archive


Kim Addonizio 03-14-08

 

Agha Shahid Ali 09-14-07

 

Alice Anderson 11-16-08

 

Renee Ashley 04-10-2010

 

Christianne Balk 07-27-07

 

Brian Barker 07-07-07

 

Polina Barskova 09-13-2010

 

Bruce Beasley 11-22-08

 

Nicky Beer 09-06-2010

 

Nicky Beer 08-22-08

 

Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09

 

Ciaran Berry 01-25-09

 

Linda Bierds 08-31-07

 

Kristin Bock 08-17-09

 

Bruce Bond 02-18-2012

 

John Bradley 03-12-2012

 

Brian Brodeur 03-29-09

 

Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010 

 

Sophie Cabot Black 03-26-2012

 

Anne Caston 09-24-09

 

Anne Caston 02-27-2011

 

Elizabeth Biller Chapman 01-25-08

 

Nicole Cooley 04-05-09

 

Stephen Cramer 02-14-2011

 

Nicole Cuddeback 03-07-08

 

Steve Davenport 03-29-2010

 

Cortney Davis 05-03-09

 

Todd Davis 11-01-2010

 

James Dickey 03-12-2012

 

Stephen Dobyns 02-26-2012

 

Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08

 

Karen Donovan 04-15-07

 

Mark Doty 04-11-08

 

Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010

 

Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010

 

Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010

 

B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09

 

Elyse Fenton 04-25-2011

 

Nick Flynn 01-28-2012

 

Nick Flynn 10-04-2010

 

Rachel Contreni Flynn 04-10-2011

 

Carolyn Forche 09-21-07

 

Carrie Fountain 03-21-2011

 

James Galvin 02-23-07

 

Margaret Gibson 01-24-10

 

Mary Jo Firth Gillett 02-22-08

 

Dana Gioia 08-23-2010

 

Eugene Gloria 09-20-08

 

Louise Gluck 03-17-2010

 

Kevin Goodan 08-29-08

 

Matthew Graham 11-28-2010

 

Robert Grunst 11-16-07

 

Bruce Guernsey 9-13-2011

 

Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07

 

John Haines 11-01-2011

 

Donald Hall 02-10-07

 

Sarah Hannah 11-25-2011

  

C. G. Hanzlicek 04-23-2012

 

Jeff Hardin 08-10-07

 

Elizabeth Haukaas 09-13-2011

 

Brooks Haxton 03-08-10

 

Seamus Heaney 09-11-09

 

Jamey Hecht 12-05-2010

 

Bob Hicok 10-25-2011

 

 

Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09

 

Lynda Hull 05-20-07

 

Henry Israeli 01-23-2011

 

Major Jackson 05-02-2010

 

Mark Jarman 10-19-08

 

Rodney Jones 10-26-09

 

Barbara Jordan 02-02-09

 

Ilya Kaminsky 11-18-2011

 

Daniel Khalastchi 8-30-2011

 

Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08

 

Jane Kenyon 04-01-07

 

Suji Kwock Kim 11-09-2011

 James Kimbrell 04-07-2010

James Kimbrell 01-19-07

 

Galway Kinnell 11-09-07

 

Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07

 

Phil Levine 06-03-07

 

Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08

 

Larry Levis 04-04-08

 

Larry Levis 02-08-2010

 

Lisa Lewis 02-11-2012

 

Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08

 

Corey Marks 10-03-07

 

Adrian Matejka 04-18-08

 

Davis McCombs 01-18-08

 

Jeffrey McDaniel 10-08-2011

 

Michael McGriff 02-22-09

 

Jay Meek 01-16-2010

 

Anne Michaels 01-18-09

 

Nils Michals 02-29-08

 

Keith Montesano 12-12-2010

 

Malena Morling 05-12-08

 

Simone Muench 02-08-08

 

Sharon Olds 02-22-07

 

Sharon Olds 10-19-07

 

Michael Ondaatje 02-01-2010

 

Eric Pankey 09-07-07

 

Gregory Pardlo 06-22-07

 

Ed Pavlic 09-28-07

 

Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010

 

Lucia Perillo 12-04-09

 

Catherine Pierce 04-18-2011

 

Jon Pineda 04-09-2012

 

Donald Platt 02-15-08

 

Joshua Poteat 03-13-2011

 

Joshua Poteat 11-3-09

 

Wyatt Prunty 02-20-2011

 

Dean Rader 03-07-2011

 

Amy Randolph 03-01-09

 

Robert Randolph 12-12-09

 

Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010

 

Joshua Robbins 11-16-2010

 

David Roderick 12-07-07

 

Bobby C. Rogers 02-04-2012

 

Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08


 Steve Scafidi 10-09-09

 

Jim Schley 10-19-09

 

Tim Seibles 10-08-07

 

David Shumate 10-26-08

 

Dave Smith 04-10-09 

 

Katherine Soniat 01-21-2012

 

Katherine Soniat 11-30-07

 

Gary Soto 03-23-07

 

Mark Sullivan 08-28-09

 

Mathias Svalina 04-02-2012

Frank Stanford 10-25-2010

Mark Strand 02-22-2010

 

Mark Svenvold 03-23-09

 

Robert Thomas 05-03-2011

 

Brian Turner 05-13-07

 

Joshua Vinzant 01-30-2011

 

Tribute to Virginia Tech 04-24-07

 

Connie Voisine 10-1-2011

 

Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07

 

David Wevill 03-27-2011

 

C.K. Williams 05-25-07

 

Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07

 

Charles Wright 01-27-07

 

Robert Wrigley 10-11-2010

 

Robert Wrigley 08-17-07

 

Robert Wrigley 04-09-07

 

Robert Wrigley 02-03-07