The hand-bound book is brittle
Note the fingerprints done in cinnamon,
the accidental watercolors too where ink bled from steam:
a recipe for Persian Rice penned in red cursive,
clearly hers, has nearly
At the time we had a corded phone.
You could go only so far before taking out
a vase of Daffodils.
I’m sure this is why phone numbers are recorded
in the corner of pages.
There are sicknesses
and dinner parties
and Sunday afternoons when nobody
knew what to make,
and the reason
we have this book, I guess,
is that some things turn out better than others, It
We had no money, but cardboard boxes full
of nightshade vegetables—tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants—
lined the small apartment.
A lady at the market traded us flowers
I started saving the iridescent scraps of onions
trying to understand what could be
taken to the back yard and buried and become,
next spring, a garden
It was the sweeter yellow tomatoes rising
where we dumped only red
that made me think, much later, it was okay
to have clams for Christmas,
and it was best (she was right),
if the homeless came
and afterwards we all sang O Come, O Come
Emmanuel on the porches of people who
preferred to be alone.
And now in the cold kitchen, as the smell
of coriander and cumin warmed in oil rises,
I am grateful to know what can
and cannot be used
of these missing spices.
Emily Stout is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana English Program. She works nights as a registered nurse in the oncology deparment of a Midwestern hospital.
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