***Feature*** Nicole Homer

Meeting Her Husband for Lunch

 

A taste bud is a curious machine:

it knows the stew but not the cook.

“The man in the kitchen…

Who is he?”

 

How can she know the stew but not the cook?

I answer every time: “Your husband.”

“Who…? Is he-…?

I was married once.”

 

I’ve answered her every time: “Your husband”

“That’s not him, but

I was married once.”

My grandfather comes in, pills in hand.

 

“But that’s not him.”

3 hours later, like an alarm clock,

my grandfather comes in, pills in hand:

Water and patience and a smile like forty years together.

 

3 hours later, like an alarm clock:

“Did I ever tell you how I met my husband?”

Waiting and patient and a smile like a fourth grader,

“You told me, but tell me again. I love hearing it.”

 

Did I tell you, yet, how I met my husband?”

My grandfather is in the kitchen listening to us,

“You told her, but tell her again. I need to hear it.”

“Well I was the prettiest thing…”

 

My grandfather is in the kitchen whispering to me,

It is twenty-five years ago and he is telling me the story:

“Well she was the prettiest thing

and she’d say, ‘ good lord, can that boy cook!’”

 

It is fifteen years ago and he is telling me the truth:

Your grandmother hasn’t been herself lately.

She finishes, “…and, good lord, could that boy cook!

He made the best stew.”

 

My grandmother hasn’t been herself in fifteen years

but the man in the kitchen

Still makes the best stew.

Her taste bud, at least, is a loyal machine.

 


A Warning to Boys Who Collect Shrapnel

For Sam White, historian, killed in his garage in 2008

while defusing a cannonball

making him the last casualty of the American Civil War.

 

A rusty bullet

travels slowly.

There is not the

hammer click gunpowder bang

of propulsion.

 

There is not even a hint

of bodies dancing like red capes

begging for the charge

nothing left of the in-through-out of ill-fated organs

and boys playing at war.

 

Do not doubt the metal

do not believe the rust.

It is a killing thing

and you are made of breath and beating

all muscle and bone.

 

A bullet is pierce and rupture

is blink and instant.

 

This sad thing is a soldier after a war

when killing is not quite a memory

but not a purpose either.

It is almost useless

like a warning to boys

who collect things

and imagine they have no past

 

Remember how, as a boy, you raced home

how you begged for the metal detector

how you followed its song.

 

How the fields murmured old secrets

and coughed up bullets.

 

There are things you cannot dodge.

This bullet has been moving towards you for 148 years.

 

When a bullet leaves a gun it never looks back.

If the marksman is good or lucky

the body,

the blood,

the chipped bones that scatter

the exit, unceremonious and quick

the after, the dirt and the waiting,

and then,

a boy with curious and uncalloused hands.

 

Holding the rusted metal,

you finger groove and time

dent and destiny

This is epitaph

etched down the sides of its body.

 

The kiss from the barrel

is just as must past

as much made of yesterdays

as your ex-wife’s hands

or the uniform, much too small now,

hidden in dustiest closet of your home.

 

Everything has a history,

even you

even the dirt

falling from the bullet

into to your hands.

 

Everything has a future

moving slowly towards it.

Even now your body is busy writing itself,

becoming less flesh

more dirt and ashes with every breath.

 

Remember how, as a boy, you held every bullet like a secret

how you thought war was made of stories and battlefields

how you imagined your body would endure

 

How the rust from someone else’s history

made your hands bloody


When My Newborn Daughter Holds My Grandfather’s Index Finger as I Did Thirty-three Years Ago 

 

I wonder when the days will stop pulling at my sweater

and let me be,

when I will mistake the steady decay of my body

for the calm of my living room chair,

when my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will stop asking my age

and file me under old:

that flat and static town

made of pictures and stories,

that precursor to unsurprising funerals,

that permission to marvel at the young

as if I had never lived there.


Red

 

Today I wear my hair up

with a red tie

so you know I’m half hussy,

half great idea.

 

This my mama’s dress

so I’m nothing new, either.

You can decide which is your favorite part;

I already know what

I like best.

 

I’m outside the house

waiting on a car

so you already know

I make bad choices. But at least I make something

of myself.

 

My dress red, too –

like my hair tie

and my lip stick

and these panties, got for $2 out a of a bin

at a store where everything is cheap including the clothes.

 

I don’t even like red

that much

but if you surrendering, you raise a white flag.

Don’t matter none if you don’t like white.