A Toast to the Cook [poem] by Bernard Cooper

A long fragrant leash of steam
tethers me to your figure
stirring a pot at the stove. Herbs steep,
earthy and engrossing
as the dirt I dig in my dreams.
A tracery of ancient spills
rises from the carpet fiber: bland, innumerable
crumbs of bread; a whiff of stale
table wine, once so wet
and full and sweet, now a stubborn
russet stain. Mouldering scraps
reek from the pail, vibrant as the morning news.
Cold coffee grounds glow
in my head like embers.
Distracting odors slough from your hand
as you bend down and reach for me—
the soup you sampled and
wiped from your lips; ghostly cloves
of garlic. A tangled, enticing
maze of decay
spreads from your breath
when you say my name.
I lift my nose—a toast to the cook—
and sniff your incomparable crotch,
a banquet of spoor.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem put the editors in mind of Aimée Harris’ poem “The War Was Won with Ice Cream.”]

Image by Simo ubuntu via Flickr Creative Commons

Bernard Cooper’s most recent book is The Bill From My Father (Simon & Schuster). Cooper is the recipient of the 1991 PEN/USA Ernest Hemingway Award, a 1995 O. Henry Prize, a 1999 Guggenheim grant, and a 2004 National Endowment of the Arts fellowship in literature. His work has been included in The Best American Essays of 1988, 1995, and 1997, 2002, and 2008. His work has also appeared in magazines and literary reviews including, Granta, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review, Story, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The New York Times Magazine. He has contributed to NPR’s “This American Life” and for six years wrote monthly features as the art critic for Los Angeles Magazine. “A Toast to the Cook” first appeared in Unleashed: Poems by Writers’ Dogs, edited by Amy Hempel and Jim Shepard.