Odes to Objects

Mortar + Pestle

Alan E. Rapp

Let’s put some suggestive
undertones aside for a bit,
the whole yoni and lingam thing.
It’s not awesome because it’s primitive.
The Microplane grater might be better,
its handle molds to my hand
and the sharp tiny scales can’t
have existed in the last millennium.
But while we’re at it with the spices
and the nuts and the seeds, which are old,
this blunt technology is right
and fitting.
I remember Jeff making a picada
of hazelnuts and garlic
for our first home-cooked meal in Barcelona
jabbing down into the heavy yellow
ceramic bowl they use in Catalunya.
He was so precise in his motions
I always take twice as long and little
bits of aromatics fly everywhere.
My arm always ends up tired.
It seems grotesque in the catalogs,
ancient device printed on glossy stock
staged on the granite countertop
next to the 15,000 BTU Wolf range.
The big one was twenty bucks
at New May Wah on Clement Street,
San Francisco. Like everything there
a serious deal. Twenty pounds of
deep basin hewn rock
that Jenn wasn’t sure we needed
to haul across the continent.
I want to get a new one in
every new country with its own
old food traditions.
I don’t care if it’s white man’s overlay
where I pretend that
the toasted cumin atomizes into
my nostrils with the same breath
that connects us all while
I listen to world music.
I’m just pulverizing toasted cumin
With a stone peg, in a stone bowl.

Pie

Angela Riechers

This summer morning, baskets of cherries sat in a dark truck
on their way to the farmer’s market
tracing a vector on a map, point A in Columbia County
to point B in Kings County
I think about math carving sense out of the universe
The perfection of algebra and geometry
Pie and pi, 3.1416
pie can’t wait
Fresh sour cherries are rare, fleeting
Rearrange the day
I don’t have a gingham apron to wear
I don’t have a windowsill for cooling
There are papers to write, projects to finish, errands to grind
Still, I want to make you a pie
Two and a half pounds of cherries
So many pits
Hard yellow stones litter the table
like surgical extractions of unnamed things
the French say you cannot have hot hands if you will make pies
only cool customers need apply
a single cube of ice floats in water
cut the butter into half inch cubes, freeze for 15 minutes
the delicate touch of fingers
knowing when to stop
the long wooden pin
x units of pressure for x duration of time equals crust of x thickness
rolling, turning, rolling again
gently arrange the collapsed red spheres
45 minutes of fire at 425 degrees
The delicate fluted shell
Butter and flour transformed
Into shattering flakes of goodness
Sparkling with sugar stars
Deep red juice bubbles from
Four vents carefully cut with a small sharp knife
Atop the perfect circle of my 3.1416 pie.
Pi is an irrational, transcendental number.
Also a prime factor in the complicated proof that I love you.
In our messy universe I made you a pie.

Tuplen

Becky Quintal

From a vast and brightly colored field
in the Netherlands
born
an outcast
among the passionate red
and endearing yellow
flowers,
someone
selfishly
cut you from your lifeline.
I never knew if my harbinger
journeyed from the Netherlands,
but I don’t care.
In my dreams
I think of things
I like
and I like things that come
from Rotterdam
or
somewhere near.
Up
the elevator
in a shroud
of paper and plastic
you
finally
arrive at my door.
The sweet messengers are
dying
but I feel joy.
Elation.
Tulips.
You listened.
Their fleeting life,
only a
miniscule
part of the
half of a million hours
we spend living
as misguided humans,
evokes a
full arc of emotions.
New
and
beautiful,
easy to love,
I carefully bring them to my face
and breath the faint fragrance
now preserved in memory,
inextricably linked with
well wishes and optimism.
They will never be
just tulips.
Obligated
I fill the vase,
their deathbed,
with watery consolation.
I place them,
a family,
a group,
in a vessel that nourishes,
but I know the truth
it’s not enough.
When the soft, cupped petals
stricken with mortality
have wilted,
faded
and scatter on the table top like fallen
soldiers
or misspent time,
I send them plunging
bud-first
into a bin
with the week’s
left-over Thai food,
used Kleenex and
a crumpled receipt.
The immense sadness,
doom
and
preordained
unshakable truth
of imminent demise
is transitory
and as insignificant as the
days this flora affected my life.
I forget.
I get tulips
again.
I smile,
unaware of fate?
Maybe
I hope
I’m wrong
so I place them in
a vessel that nourishes,
but I know the truth
it’s never enough.

Pine Tree

Chappell Ellison

Perennial green
Of
A pungent
Past
Swaying giants
Against
Cloudless
Skies
Forgiving contortionists
When
Storms
Approach
Abhorred as a child
Adored as an adult
The pine tree
Is now
A connection
To home
Clustered needles
Fall
To
Carpet the earth
And protect
Bare feet
From
Sharp rocks
When
Rain
Defeats
Summer
The fall
Wind blows
Sweet
Sticky
Pine
Into the
Skin
Of the road
Wanderer
A tree
Fifty feet
High
With
Branches
Out of reach
Bark
Like
Lizard scales
Catching
Under
Finger nails
As a
Child
I knew
The tornados
Would unroot
The glorious
Pines
Remove the king
From
His throne
But
As the wind
Blew harder
The pine trees
Merely
Bowed to
Acknowledge
The gusts
Then
Stood
Defiantly proud
As
My
Front yard
Watchmen

Glass of Water

Frederico Duarte

Give me
a glass of water.
Hold
the ice
the straw
the lemon slice
the electrolytes
the nutrients
the lid
the plastic
the mineral source
and the ornament.
Offer me
a full
fresh
whole
simple
replenishing
true
spring of wonderment.
Make me
feel
the vanishing cold
the evaporating weight
the glistening solid
the flowing liquid
container
and
content
fusing together
in my hand
and
my lips.
Allow my
taste
smell
vision
to contemplate
this
tasteless
scentless
colorless
vessel of life.
Trust me
with
this glass of water.
Even when
it isn’t yours
nor mine.
Give me
this glass
all glasses of water
I need to
quench my thirst.

Spreadsheet

William Myers

Columns of majesty!
You faithfully maintain
numbers,
notes,
highlights,
and formulas,
perfectly sorted and safe
in the cells of your body.
Never do you
Ask their meaning,
Question their use or
judge their integrity.
You are a Parthenon of order and balance,
Silently observing
The citizens’ passage,
And the rise of kingdoms.
Rows of wonder!
data swim in your embrace,
change clothing,
shape, and even
unite eagerly in charts.
The pagan dance of formats,
copies, pastes,
and cuts which do no harm
delight the heart
and sate a hungry reason.
Your binary innards
are but a startling string
of endless ones and zeros.
They appear hopelessly chaotic,
But I save you
And you save me.

Dorothy’s Silver Slippers

Amelia Black

Your dance, is not mine.
The click of your heel
the jazz of your step
the lift of your arch
as the steps,
and clicks,
combine
to rhythm
—is not mine.
And while, I enjoy your gifts
they aren’t a thing to own
or take
they are but tokens
we are, but
memory makers, together.
My dancing partner
your shine is bright
your step-ball-change, mighty
your effect,
physical.
Pushing my weight
forward,
knees cock,
thigh muscles connect
hold me up-right,
3 inches taller,
and supported,
all the more myself
by your disco glow.
Light shapes things,
but you are
no thing, to be shaped.
instead
you reflect, fragment
and distort.
Bouncing beams
in light puddles
where ever you go.
We met, it was winter.
Chicago, 2005.
The third floor,
of the Village Discount Outlet
You, orphaned by a pervious partner
Me, inexperienced, looking for a first time.
The price was right.
1$, priceless.
Lately, I find myself getting protective
not taking you out
as much as I should.
Over the years,
we’ve grown together.
My toes have made their mark
your insoles, tattered
where we rub in
the grit of city nights,
spent out
sweaty under the lights
under the influence
dancing, in the moment
numb pain of long hours, grinds
built-up grime fuses with
your history
the wear of your baggage
past dancers, of which I will become.
One day, like them,
I will be in your past.
Demarcated
by the shadow of footprints,
the scuffs of sidewalks,
the love of your
radical stride
sequined attention getter
memories of bent light
the way you,
bent my body, in tempo
to your heel.

The Umbrella

Sarah Froelich

O’ sheltering umbrella,
perfect
in form and use,
resting quietly
inside
your convenient
carrying case
until I unsheathe you.
When the sky
breaks open
and rain
begins to fall,
gathering in puddles
and splashing
at my bare
April ankles,
I pull you
from your cushioned sheath,
wear your nylon strap
like a light bracelet,
grasp your
TPR-molded handle
that precisely
fits my grip,
pull apart your
gentle Velcro,
every crackle
so crisp and reassuring,
press your soft
Victorinox-symbol-ed button,
rejoice
in the echo
of the “Pop!”
of your protective,
expanding cloth,
and climb beneath
your titanium-enhanced frame.
Once your silver,
poly-pongee fabric
is exposed
to the elements,
your magic
is revealed:
no water can penetrate you,
no wind can ravage you,
and if,
by some
improbable chance,
you should break or bend,
I can return you
to your manufacturer
for replacement
by another
of your kind.

The Snowboard

Hala Abdul Malak

A board in
red,
white,
black,
and silver
Adorned with
graffiti
and personal stickers
Acts as
a piece
of art
in my room
against the wall
But holds the key
to my autonomy
Speed
and excitement
On the slopes
It carries me up in the air
and gives me wings
Every time I slide
It fuses with my body
and we become one
It allows me to express myself
for who I am
Becoming much more than a sport
A lifestyle, a passion
No boundaries,
No rules
No regulations,
Just you my snowboard,
Nature and me
Set me free again
Let me ride,
ride,
ride,
ride
Until the sun goes down
And all the powder is gone

Bicycle

Laura Forde

the fourth dimension
is there for the taking, like
the winged sandals of Hermes
tethered to a street sign
wasted
life
force
rusting
trapped, squandered
do you dare unchain him?
excellent plaything
nearly independent
the ever-eager bicycle
an ancient, but no less
promising contraption
beckons you
like a metal race horse
or better yet, a dragon
trusty, nimble and strong
hold on
his needs are few
this mechanical child of May
conductor of the soul
just air
not too much water
no fuel
feeds his fire
he is more than happy to act
as your fearless guide
if you ask the right questions
and so you leap
unshackling
the cunning machine
from its lonesome post
together, with your
handsome escort
accelerating
compressing time
you arrive
as if by magic

First Cars

John Cantwell

Mine
was a Mustang.
A jittery, limping
old mare,
four cylinders, not eight,
the last they would make.
Here and there,
there and back,
music blaring always.
For six years.
Used or new,
they are always new,
our combusting babies.
The delivery kid’s
Civic,
bought by pizza,
looks like pizza,
a mozzarella paintjob
and pepperoni rust.
Father with wife three
hands daughter of wife one
keys to a Benz.
Ted from Tulsa,
38,
no longer takes the bus.
Elsewhere,
body spray
and
shampoo
and
Doublemint mingle,
mushrooming
against windows sealed shut
and then
soft rain
falls through the trees
and then.
There are no second firsts.
They try to tell you this.
But you never hear it
until you say it.
Good.

Toothbrush

Emily Leibin

I am in your grasp,
though you are in mine
a day cannot begin
or end
without spending
intimate minutes together
sometimes I need more
mid-morning
afternoon
I need a fresh re-start
a second chance at the day
or
a little help hiding
traces of
garlic vinaigrette
and broccoli
long sleek
red plastic body
white rectangle
of bristles
you are generic
but so hard to find
no one carries you anymore
I travel the whole island
in search of your replacement
the dentist says
you’re outdated
I should join this century
go electric
but there’s no way I’d leave you
you’re prefect
there’s no reason
for flexible heads
rubber grips
or colorful bristles
you’re the peak of functionality
no need to innovate
it’s just marketing
nothing can improve
upon your beauty
god knows they’ve tried
you’ve always
taken good care of me
no cavities
no cracks
but I think of
your mortality
it’s unjust
that your life
is so short
while your job
is to prolong mine
soon I’ll be
on to the next
with hardly a memory
of the times we shared
your void will be filled
with a likeness of you
that assumes your purpose
slips into my pocket
polishes my breath
greets me in the morning
and kisses me goodnight

Headlights

Kathryn Henderson

Darkness smolders us
Drowning everything
Making weights of
Even the lightest
of things
Rubber on asphalt
Smooth and fast
Races towards us
A glow!
Lucid and
Bright
Headlights
Flickering
Ride across your face
Half illuminating
Slices of your skin
It jumps!
Brilliant and
Bold
Skips and
Slidessss
Along
Dancing
Though out the room
Delicately
Cradling
Every heavy silhouette
Washing away the night
Cleansing us
Rescuing us
Lifting us up
With every ounce
Of its intangible intensity
Then
Blink!
Rubber on asphalt
Smooth and fast
(And faster still!)
Races away from us
Head-
lights
Dissolve
We are weights
Again

Zipper Pillow

Mike Neal

Hello old friend.
It’s dark again,
but i close my eyes anyway
and turned off vision for a while.
How much of my life have we spent
together blind and
cheek to cheek?
You are sweet relief
and comfort.
personified.
At the end
of the day,
here we are,
nuzzled into down.
It’s serene softness
and a familiar lull
as the polyester cover
is cold against my cheek.
Arms wrap
and i pull you close,
like i’m trying to smother myself
while my hands search for the break
in the slip;
feeling for the layer
underneath.
The real skin is rough
and less cool,
but my fingers
out of instinct
trace the cold of your spine,
the ladder of metal vertebrae,
as it makes a path
while bound like DNA.
Click.
End of the line.
My thumb and index finger
grasp at treasure.
They pinch and twist the metal tab
a prize of touch
and sound.
Click click click:
a metronome
that hypnotizes my ears
and brings the silence under sway.
The clicks gives way to zips
and I can feel
each lock break,
half expecting sand to spill out.
You know the kind.
But I only toy with destruction,
and an opposite pull
repairs the breach.
Up and down the sides of my digits
the steal joints scratch
the flesh ones,
more soothing than fingernails.
Click click click.
Scratch. Zip.
Repeat.
The dance of dreams.
You are the magic of sleep,
an avatar
of sound and touch.
With fingertips we cast the spell
back and forth in the night.
You are a talisman,
a secret teddy bear,
against loneliness and silence
and the chaos of the dayto-
day
tonight.

Metal Grating

Jim Wegener

your metal bearing bars
spaced in 1-3/16” intervals
across my heart
where do you come from?
on the street
steam passing through your web
at the foot of skyscrapers
surrounded by concrete
looking at you
walking on you
I kneel down to touch you
tough
steel and aluminum
I feel your air
sweep up under me
through me
I breathe you in
your cruelty
towards high heels
is noticed but forgiven
I touch you with my flat sneakers
or dress shoes
industrial
harsh
meeting soft shoe
long ago I saw you
with another
a great towering arch
instead of steam, you emitted light
and protected me from it
I couldn’t look at you then
too bright
but I still felt you
was that even you?
maybe not
you make me giddy
so I jump on you
CLANK!
CLANK!
your echo from beneath
sounds like a symphony
but I’ll be honest here
don’t get mad
you smell a little
of garbage
that is beneath you
and is that blood
on you sharp metal bars?
I forgive your faults
you are a filter
of my imagination
you protect us from harm
and breathe out air and light
do you despise this responsibility?
or do you embrace it?
your parallel bars are rational
but I have seen you with perforation
or buttonhole surfaces
I imagine your birth
the cross bars welded to your deep bearing
a skeleton of beauty
that will hold my gaze
and my feet forever

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