Over the slow burn of Billie Holiday songs
- cliched, perhaps, but the truth -
I hear something sauteing in a skillet.
The smell soon gives things away:
Onions are involved, to be sure. Garlic,
maybe. The wet sprigs of parsley
gleam as if fished from undersea.
My mother is cooking this afternoon.
And when she was simply Miss Alvarez
(she had often told me) she would watch
her mother work away the woes of marriage
by cooking until it hurt, by making
unlikely masterpieces called pasteles out of hard,
green bananas and pork and olives and cilantro.
My mother makes those, but only
on special occasions and not today, because today
is just an ordinary day, because she is a woman
at peace in her marriage. My mother cooks
because she loves to cook. Nothing else.
Her movements around the kitchen
seem planned and haphazard.
Unconcerned with expense, humming Holiday,
she rubs crocus leaves and lets the saffron oil