I cannot remember the last meal I shared with my father.
Only those long last nights slipping him what ice chips
he could still stomach and then swabbing his chapped lips
with a wetted pink sponge. After, our friends and neighbors
left platters at our doorstep, not wanting to bother us.
Where is the testament of coffeecakes and casseroles?
What words in the old story for she who rolled the dough
in its dust before the morning cock’s first crow, Pilate still
asleep in his silks, though maybe now Christ has been roused
from troubled dreams, or maybe Judas has just opened his eyes?
There should be a gospel of flour and water and salt.
She is there, flushed in the heat of the oven, no matter what
we say or do not say of her. It is almost certainly a woman
at the fire all those hours, someone who would not be asked
to join the meal, who set out the cups and chairs, tended the fires,
whose knuckles ached from the work. My mother measured
out enough coffee for all my father’s sons on the morning
of his death, and when he died there in our living room
we sat quiet but for the click and mutter of saucers and cups,
the coffee going cold, his body growing mottled and cold
as we slowly remembered worldly hungers, earthly thirsts.
You can see all of us there. You can imagine her at twilight
dowsing her smarting hands in the coldest water she can find
until tears start in her eyes, while at their supper they too
are weeping, drinking the cup of his blood, eating the bread
which is his flesh, which is her work, nothing more
than a small daily duty but maybe the most we can ask
of human love: to rise again the next violet morning, to see to
what alone man cannot live by, what he cannot live without.