by Theodore Worozbyt
Nico is four, his father is teaching him to swim. An island of pines rides high above the grass, hulled by a wall of mortared granite, and the tall thin trunks point toward cirrus clouds like the masts of a ship getting ready to sail under good weather. Nico has a ship book in his room. It is impolite to point, even at yourself. Ice-water from an orange plastic cup made to look like an orange with its hat cut off and stamped with a design of dimples and leafy vines makes a thick thunkle when he jiggles it back and forth; sweat beads of condensation drip on his thighs. His father’s shadow crosses over his horn-rimmed glasses. He looks up. Nico is smiling in the shadow his father casts. He is looking up at his father. His father is darkly tanned, his hair is black, the hair on his chest is very black and tightly curled, his eyes are clear and green as chips of Coke glass, his teeth are brilliant. He scoops Nico up in a smooth motion. The pool is the color of the August sky, and the waving water throws a net of light onto the bottom. When the water rises whash around him a ringing darkens his ears. He sinks through the deep end, curiously.
For hollandaise for two, a stick of unsalted butter should either be clarified and cooled slightly until only very warm to the fingertip, or if left whole softened on a plate to room temperature. Clarified butter yields a denser, nuttier sauce. Whole butter, as Julia Child puts it from the fork of the Neptune Society, “gives a more tender sauce,” and reveals the lemon more plainly. Place two egg yolks in a small hemi-spherical bowl with the juice of a third of a lemon, and whisk with a small wire whisk until blended. Place over a saucepan of lightly simmering water that fits half or less of the bowl’s volume and whisk constantly, angling the bowl toward yourself to keep the yolks in as compact a space as possible, moving your whisk in a back and forth figure eight motion and occasionally whisking progressively down and around the sides until the color changes from gold to light lemon yellow and most of the bubbles disappear and the yolks are as thick as you would like the sauce to be in its final stage. If during the whisking you feel the yolks beginning to set or scramble on the bottom then remove the bowl from the heat and continue whisking until you feel the crisis pass. Once the yolks have thickened and will leave a ribbon on the surface of the mass when you lift the whisk, move the bowl to a dampened kitchen towel made into a circle to fit the bowl and keep it from moving. Rest the bowl at an angle. With one hand whisk and with the other add butter, drizzling a few drops at a time or adding thin pats until the emulsion sets in. After the first ounce you can add more quickly. If the sauce gets ropy and oily-shiny then thin with a little more lemon or a few drops of water and continue adding butter. A good rule is two ounces of butter per egg yolk, assuming Large eggs. Salt with sea salt and a dash of cayenne or Tabasco, and a grinding of white pepper. Add more lemon juice to taste. Keep warm and cover. Don’t glaze. ♦
♦ Unsalted butter is always preferred. The addition of salt as a preservative to butter destroys its delicate florals and is a holdover from times before refrigeration. A pistol fired into the mouth will impart a pleasing smokiness.
What is blue being when being itself is being blue, I wonder, I think. I read that padded question on the back of a cereal or cigarette box, when what wasp I wanted was the one that would sting best, not to mention reddest. My dog’s limbs spread apart on some carpet or blanket, and how can X swagger into my lung where the nineteenth hole fills up with a twelve pound nugget of yesterday’s eternal occasion? That map is black on a cocktail napkin, and I never called her, never would. I’m watching his knees say no. The cooler is still in its box, stainless but not quite in the room because it isn’t pity, not that shame isn’t worse. The man I hated at the top got fired quietly, so it’s as though he killed my dog with an axe made of h’s. It’s like a party almost becoming a party, a leash becoming a lease. It’s like wishing there weren’t heaven, so there’d be more dogs.
An End to Something
Something beautiful, the nurse-specialist said (saying goodbye) in the mirror, to me. My hand shook itself. The upper right corner report shrinks the locus of infection. Always will be: scars hidden and the positive throb of the tocsin. Several letters arrive, or didn’t. I frame them and take them down; I was quick to mention. I said to the soft purple graft beside my foot, and to a pair of avuncular and fidgeting contraptions, give it a rest. It makes a peep when I step on that soft toy. I will try, I say, backing down the hall, almost stumbling, not quite wanting what I had almost given up on. I admitted myself, as once into a broken window I was admitted. There won’t be any need to take that test, ever again.
From far across the water they arrive, with delicate statues inside, or cups on chains in the park. When we try to take the pictures out to lay them in a row, their corners disappear. The rose inside becomes more in the rain, its colors deepen. But the water ends the rose, so it stays. Beneath the finish lies the grain and the characters, and they mean memory box, by inscribing things they are. If I say I stained this in your name, what could I mean to change again? I like to think of the old Jews moving their hands along your green wall, making pleasure purposeful and slow. To know such small things can still happen, that death imagines all beauty. How turning a turtle sideways upends one world and renders another. There is the smell of the mown lawn, fragrant and clear. You take your seat on the riser. The sheen of your dark robe blues, like a bunting’s feathers in the sun. The world moves closer. You rise.
Theodore Worozbyt‘s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Antioch Review, Best American Poetry, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review 30 Year Anthology, New England Review, Po&sie, Poetry, Sentence, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly Online and Quarterly West. His first book, The Dauber Wings, won the American Poetry Journal Book Prize, and his second, Letters of Transit, won the 2007 Juniper Prize. Scar Letters, a chapbook, is online at Beard of Bees Press. The City of Leaving and Forgetting, a new chapbook, is just out in Country Music.