The Secret of Your Mother’s Macaroni and Cheese
She said it was only paprika,
but paprika doesn’t burn that deep.
She must share whatever secret
you and the Schlitz
let me swallow.
Your mother’s mac-n-cheese tastes like what you did to me.
My malt liquor memory only tells me something about burning,
something about nails raking down the backs of thighs,
and something said about “Saxophone-Americans.”
What does your mother know about that?
Well, she did bear seven sons.
I suppose she must know about longing and the lingering rawness
like that place where pain and pleasure commingle.
At least, that’s what her mac-n-cheese said.
God, it was so intense, that burning that threatened
to never release me, but I scraped the plate clean,
licked every point and dip of the fork,
suppressing any worry that comfort food shouldn’t scar my soft palette
like I wouldn’t question if joining and rending shouldn’t tear.
This is the line between pain and pleasure. Watch
me toe the line. Watch me fall
It’s like the last wail of a saxophone solo—
the sax knows it’s ending, so it pushes for the final note
to echo in that hollow place beneath your breastbone.
The tremors almost break
the xiphoid process into my heart,
I said, the tremors
Forget when I would crawl
under the covers and push
my bare feet against your shins,
forget the on/off clicks of the space heater.
Forget who I was
when my nightmares
woke us with my screams.
Forget the refuge
you could have been.
Forget the box of chocolate covered pistachios
next to the bed, forget the 2 AM gyros.
Forget waking up without an alarm clock.
Forget bagels, forget the sun opening the frosted glass.
Forget the penetration of air between the pane and window frame.
Forget searching for socks, forget the extra toothbrush.
Forget my hand on your chest,
rising with your breath.