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I believe in artichokes

Italy did ruin me. After that first trip I came back disgusted by bodega coffee, which now smelled of old socks. Before, it was just fine. I rolled my eyes at red sauce joints, detouring old standbys like a stranger. If eating can be seen as a religious or spiritual experience I had been to the mountain. In time I would return on pilgrimages, always holding the simple pleasures in my thoughts.  An artichoke, methodically fried in good olive oil, with some salt. Black truffles, good butter and fresh pasta twisting around the back of a fork. A very cold and tiny glass of porto bianco sipped in a Genoa bar, with my friend Federico. A man cleaning sardines on a block of wood in the street. A woman selling green figs that she wraps into a newspaper cone. I have thousands of these memories, these artifacts. But I live in Moscow, where there has been an embargo for years now, and there is no population that expects perfect mounds of fresh cheese. They ship powdered palm oil here, that gets …

the chapter to finish


There is a chapter to finish. An ugly set of actions to describe. A naked mother screams at a little boy. There is desperation, isolation, a whistled tune and an apple orchard. I have tried to put it all down without bias, without hating her, without defending him. It is a disgusting moment, but an important one. This is the work at hand, to illustrate the grotesque and somehow make it luminous. 

E does not understand this yet, this redemption from ugliness. When I pick her up on Sunday and take a picture of a makeshift ashtray on a hallway ledge she asks me why I do this. 
I am almost too tired to explain it. 
"I am trying to make it look interesting." I tell her.
"But it is just cigarettes." She says, shrugging her shoulders.
"To me it is more than that." I answer.
He mouth twists around a little.
"Ok." She admits, and takes my hand as we go down the stairs and outside to the wet street littered with yellow leaves. She chatters about the new dolls she likes, listing their names, explaining why one is more likable than another. We stop at the vegetable stand and I buy fresh feijoada, their green skins glowing inside the plastic bag. They look like eggs, I realize.  


The days and weeks pass, uneventful. There are tender moments. There is dancing in the kitchen, spinning N around and somehow dipping her without knocking into the washing machine or breaking any dishes. There is music. There are pots of goulash, and bowls of minestrone that I cook on the tiny stove in this cramped room, the windows painted with steam. There is a wobbly table and a fresh bottle of olive oil. The wine all tastes like rubbing alcohol and grape juice no matter what shelf I buy it from. The tomatoes are already pale and mealy. It may start to snow any day now.

I am never ready.

The door to winter may open soon. The grit and slush will fill our boots. I will stand in front of windows staring at white skies, hopefully getting past this chapter to finish.




Comments

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.

Ezra Pound
Oddly enough, m. You are an old hand at transforming the grotesque into the luminous. You do it all the time!
Uncle Al said…
the chill is not far beyond NY, teasing us with this oddly mild weather so the occasional dip into the 40's F gentle sways many to unpack the sweaters and down quilts. I will soon return to the tropics with thoughts of leaves still turning into fire colors in the low lying hills of the Catskill Mountains. thoughts of your Moscow winters deeply chills my bones as I fly south, returning to Palm Tree paradise in the Sunshine State followed by countless aging snow birds, soon the parking lots will be full again. Wishing you warm thoughts my friend.
Do visit with E if you can, we will fish with your father in the Gulf of Mexico as icicles grow long!

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