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Un Magazine 10.1

Reports from a Kitchen

Tom Melick

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10/39

Article

Image: Ivan Ruhle

— Der Unterricht

In German bread is brot
and butter is butter
I know this because I’m Toaster
In German toaster is toaster
kitchen is küche
that’s where I live and work
mornings mostly
in between Wasserkessel
who’s desperate to please
and Mauer
who never speaks or moves

What respect I have for Mauer!
Blank and sturdy Mauer!
Not a peep
nor a grimace
even with visits from nail and hammer
In German hammer is hammer
nail is nagel
I wonder, does Mauer know this?
Or, perhaps Mauer doesn’t care to know

I’m sorry to say
Wasserkessel is very stupid
constantly bored
speaking wet breathy nonsense
In German nonsense is unsinn
speaking is sprechen
to which big flat Mauer never responds
not to taunts
nor to whistles
not even to false praise

Not a word from you today, Mauer?
Wasserkessel will sometimes goad
and I say yes! not a word
In German silence is stille
word is wort

I’ll never admit it to Mauer
but this silence, cool and vertical
burns me up inside
You see, I know about the horror —
horror is entsetzen
taking place behind the calm
I know about the stinking sadness
piling up on the other side

I’m furious and aroused
but what can I do?
Silence is Mauer and Mauer is
silence. And so, back to our lesson
In German crumb is krume
burnt is verbrunnt
And water? Well, that’s easy! wasser
But I dare not sip
for fear of becoming Wasserkessel

— The Ancients

It’s a hot day in late August, 79 AD
I watch as peas follow each other
into the pot

spiders abseil down crevices

between

stove
and
counter
table
and
wall

the ants are here
contending with trapped gunk
in a broken exhaust hood
but I get distracted listening to a story
told by a cockroach
which I can’t recall

and a century goes by

It’s true what they say
I was there when the roof

fell in
became the floor

when the peas overcooked
the crevices foreclosed
the ants turned into gunk

What else can I tell you
that you haven’t read online?

Time’s clumsy foot couldn’t
squash the cockroaches

who continue to meet

happy scholars of the floor
feasting during and after
their nightly symposium
and teaching each other
300 million-year-old lessons

such as

1) reject the comforts of nihilism
2) openings are for entering
3) it’s possible to live without a head

and

4) try to avoid those who would
prefer to see you

exterminated

— The Moon

I do not, do I? Need to tell you

that life is not easy

for a sponge

I do not need to tell you

that knowing is not the same as

understanding

that submersion is not the same as

swimming

No, you don’t need me going on about

how miserable life is —

a wet accumulation of filth

And what happens to this filth?

It expands inside you

filling every pore

until you’re

squeezed, rinsed, wrung out

left to harden, but weirdly

in a shape you could never predict

over
and over
and over
and over

this happens

until you’re

done, overcome, destitute

but you don’t need me to tell you

Instead,

I would like to show you

before it’s too late

this big ball of wobbling light

reflected in this sink

— Work

The 3am buzz comes not from
the oven or the pipes or the fridge

this buzz — sometimes a whistle
comes not from the boiler or
the broken faucet or the power sockets

this buzz, a fizz — almost a sputter
that began yesterday or the day
before or after

when the spaghetti was cooked
and they ate it, delirious and muzzy
squabbling and complaining

not knowing that the buzzing
had stopped or that daylight had come
and gone and come

they searched for it, long and hard
hair was lost, faces wrinkled,
necks drooped towards the earth

Maybe it’s me?
Unlikely
Could it be a rattle in my chest?
Unlikely

And so they kept working
dishes not cleaned, emails unanswered
tea towels oily and brown

There’s a rattle in my chest
It’s just a buzz

It rattles when we work
It’s just a buzz

Until, it was a Monday, the coffee
had gone cold and the buzz became
a gasp

— Acta Diurna

If I were different I would be
very different, more clever

you would look at me and say

You’re so well-informed!

and I would say

You’re low on milk!

I would read the papers every day
and exclaim

Such dribble — what fools!
I wouldn’t be confused, either

Rather, I’d be eloquent and
argumentative

writing letters to editors and
belittling dinner guests with facts

June 28, 1914
August 13, 1961
February 11, 2016

I would also notice what’s overlooked
in the papers

such as last Tuesday when
it was not reported

that rubbish burst from the bin

that the sink rebuked the drain

that a walnut cracked itself

that a banana had a panic attack
and slipped out from its skin

On that particular Tuesday
not one paper covered

the percolator’s lecture on
Mount Vesuvius

nor
poor Protagoras of Abdera who

chopped his thumb clean off

cutting parsley

And all of this happened just before
the air soured

and the water became so sharp
it cut every glass in the house

The following Tuesday, a new order?
No!

If I could speak I would have said

There’s no orange juice!

Or, by the third century AD

That piece of chicken may have
salmonella!

Rome was serviced by eleven aqueducts

The celery is floppy!

bringing water from distant places

The lettuce is past its use by date,
so probably slimy!

into the city for bathing, drinking
fountains and latrines

— Sardines

If I’m in brine, am I to assume we’re
all in brine?

If I’m cramped, am I to assume we’re
all cramped?

If to live is to know what is not living
can the not-living know what it is
to live?

Have we not met before in a dense shoal
many years ago?

If I have a question for you on my left
I must have a question for you on my right:

What new sea is this?
What new seas awaits us?